In this latest post we will bring you an explanation of the legal term of negligence.
Negligence comes from the latin root negligentia meaning to neglect or to fail to do something.
In the legal world, the term negligence has a similar meaning and is usually used to describe a careless act which lead to the harm of a person.
The most important case in the law of negligence is Donoghue v Stevenson. This case involved a lady buying a bottle of ginger beer from a shop for her friend. Her friend drank the ginger beer and became very unwell from a rotting snail that was inside the bottle. There was no contractual relationship between the lady who became unwell and the shop owner who had sold the bottle. The judges found that even thought there was no contractual relationship, the shop owner was negligent and should be liable for damages. This fundamental ruling shaped the law of negligence in the UK and throughout many other Commonwealth jurisdictions.
The level of damages that are available for negligence will vary widely depending on the particular duty of care, the circumstances of the breach of the duty of care and the consequences of the breach. Damages will also depend on the area of negligence such as road traffic accidents, injuries at work and falls in public places. You can click here to find out more.
The law of negligence has evolved over time and although every jurisdiction will differ slightly, it is generally accepted that for negligence to occur there must be a duty of care in place and that duty of care must be breached.
When there is a duty of care in place it means that a certain standard of care is expected. This standard of care will vary in different cases e.g. the duty of care between a doctor and patient is of course very different from the duty of care between a driver and road user.
If the person who owed the duty of care is found to have acted negligently, there will be an award of damages made to compensate the person for their loss.