If someone accuses you of being negligent, it doesn’t feel very nice, and it is a term that can sometimes be used when it isn’t appropriate, so it’s important to understand its meaning.
We also look at the differences between civil negligence and criminal negligence and how professional indemnity insurance might be able to help.
Negligence is defined as ‘the fact of not giving enough care or attention to someone or something’ (1).
In the online legal dictionary, the classification describes negligence as ‘Conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm’ (2).
We look at the two key types of negligence – civil negligence and criminal negligence – to help you understand the differences.
Civil negligence is a breach of a duty to care. Anyone who is found guilty of civil negligence is deemed to have not acted in the way a reasonable person would in the same circumstances. The negligent act must result in an injury or loss for there to be a claim. Civil negligence often falls under tort laws (3).
In English tort law, a tort is a civil wrong by the ‘tortfeasor’ which unfairly results in a loss or harm to another person. The tortfeasor becomes liable to the other person (4).
Some examples of civil negligence could include:
Criminal negligence occurs when one person puts others at risk because they fail to exercise a reasonable standard of care. Criminal negligence claims are issued by the law enforcement authorities and for someone to be criminally negligent they have to be aware that their behaviour causes an unjustified risk to another that represents and shockingly bad deviation from an appropriate standard of care.
Some examples of criminal negligence could include:
The key difference between civil negligence and criminal negligence is that civil negligence can occur due to human error, a simple mistake. Typically a civil negligence lawsuit will involve the plaintiff having to pay compensation to the claimant.
Criminal negligence involves the person accuses being aware that what they were doing was wrong and that it could put someone else in danger. Someone who is accused of criminal negligence can face probation, or even a term in jail.
In short, negligence comes down to people understanding the difference between right and wrong.
Professional indemnity insurance (PI) provides cover for civil negligence claims. The policy will provide cover for legal fees and compensation awards if a professional negligence claim is made against your business. For those business professionals who work in health, beauty and wellness, the consequences of negligence will likely be very different to those of a marketing consultant or graphic designer.
Therefore, it is important that you ensure you have correct type of PI insurance, at an adequate level for your profession or to meet a contract.