What Is Negligence?

What is Negligence?

We’ve all heard the term ‘negligence’ before, but understanding it as a legal concept can be elusive. In this article, we provide a high-level overview of negligence and explore how it can affect your life.

What Is Negligence?

In simple terms, negligence occurs when an individual or company fails to meet a standard of care or take proper precautions, which could have prevented a harmful incident. This could be exemplified by a store neglecting to use salt on their walkway, leading to someone slipping and injuring themselves on ice, or a construction company not adequately signposting their construction site. Negligence encompasses various scenarios where someone’s actions or inaction could be considered careless.

In legal contexts, negligence can manifest in numerous ways, often presenting unique circumstances. However, these cases commonly involve damaged goods, personal injuries, and more. Negligence arises when one person owes another what is known as a “duty of care” based on specific circumstances. A duty of care signifies the responsibility to exercise reasonable care in actions or omissions that could potentially harm the other person, whether physically, mentally, or financially. A typical example of a duty of care is seen in professional relationships, where professionals’ actions or statements can significantly impact their clients or patients.

In Canada, negligence is divided into two categories: civil negligence and criminal negligence. Civil negligence typically leads to lawsuits in civil courts, while criminal negligence results in criminal charges and prosecution. If an individual is convicted of criminal negligence, they may face penalties like imprisonment, probation, or fines. Criminal negligence cases are relatively rare and usually involve causing serious harm to another person through one’s actions, such as leaving a child in a hot car.

What Is Criminal Negligence?

Criminal negligence, in legal terms, refers to a type of conduct where an individual’s actions or omissions demonstrate a reckless disregard for the safety or well-being of others, to the extent that it constitutes a criminal offense. It involves a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances.

Criminal negligence can lead to criminal charges and prosecution, and if someone is found guilty, they may face penalties such as imprisonment, probation, or fines. It typically arises in cases where an individual’s actions result in severe harm or even death to others due to their extreme recklessness or indifference to the potential consequences. Examples of criminal negligence might include leaving a child unattended in a dangerous situation or driving recklessly while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, causing a serious accident.

What Is Civil Negligence?

Civil negligence, often referred to as “negligence” in a civil law context, is a legal concept that deals with a person or entity’s failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or damage to another person or their property. Unlike criminal negligence, civil negligence cases are typically litigated in civil courts and focus on compensating the injured party rather than pursuing criminal charges and penalties.

In a civil negligence case, the injured party (the plaintiff) typically seeks financial compensation (damages) from the party responsible for the negligence (the defendant). To establish a claim of civil negligence, the plaintiff typically needs to prove the following elements:

  • Duty of Care: The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. This means that the defendant had a legal obligation to act reasonably and avoid causing harm to others.
  • Breach of Duty: The defendant breached or failed to fulfill their duty of care by acting negligently or carelessly in some way.
  • Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty was the direct cause of the harm or damage suffered by the plaintiff.
  • Damages: The plaintiff suffered actual harm or damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence.

Civil negligence cases can arise in various contexts, including personal injury claims, medical malpractice, automobile accidents, premises liability, and more. If the court determines that the defendant was negligent and that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result, it may award compensation to the injured party to cover medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other relevant losses.

What if I Face a Lawsuit for Negligence?

If someone sues you for negligence, here’s what happens:

  • You receive legal papers notifying you about the lawsuit.
  • Get a lawyer to help you.
  • Respond to the lawsuit within a specific time.
  • Both sides share information and evidence.
  • Try to settle the case.
  • If no settlement, there’s a trial.
  • The court decides if you’re responsible or not.

Take it seriously and work with your lawyer to protect your rights. Outcomes vary based on the case details.

How Can I Prevent Being Held Responsible for Negligence?

If you work in a physical customer-facing role, it’s essential to be vigilant for potential negligence concerns. For instance, if you’re employed at a restaurant with dine-in service, be mindful of spills, sharp objects, and areas where customers could accidentally harm themselves.

You don’t need to take extreme measures like wrapping the restaurant in bubble wrap, but you should meet the standard of care expected in your industry. This standard varies depending on the situation, so consider what’s common in your field.

For instance, in a restaurant, the standard of care might involve using tables with rounded corners and placing wet floor signs in case of spills. By taking steps to minimize the risk of injuries, you can reduce the chances of being held liable for negligence, even if accidents occur.

Staying attentive to your responsibilities towards customers and understanding the relevant legal aspects is a proactive way to avoid legal issues. If you have concerns about negligence in your workplace, consider seeking advice from a lawyer or someone knowledgeable about safety concerns in your environment.

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In Summary

In Canada, negligence holds significant legal implications, from civil lawsuits to criminal charges. This article has provided a comprehensive overview of negligence, highlighting the distinctions between civil and criminal cases.

Civil Negligence: In civil cases, negligence centers on compensating harmed parties and involves elements like duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

Criminal Negligence: Criminal negligence involves extreme recklessness, potentially leading to criminal charges and penalties.

Legal Guidance: Lawyers play a vital role in navigating negligence cases, offering expertise, assessing evidence, and facilitating settlements.

Preventing Liability: To avoid negligence liability, individuals should adhere to industry standards and practice due diligence, particularly in roles with customer interactions.

By understanding negligence’s nuances and implementing preventive measures, individuals can navigate this complex legal landscape more effectively.

Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employer or employee who has questions about negligence, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist. 

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