English Tort Law/Negligence

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IntroductionDuty and breach

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NEGLIGENCE

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Negligence (Lat. negligentia, from neglegere, to neglect, literally "not to pick up something") is a legal concept in the common law legal systems mostly applied in tort cases to achieve monetary compensation (damages) for physical and mental injuries (not accidents).

Negligence is a type of tort or delict (also known as a civil wrong). Although they appear similar, it is not the same as "carelessness", because someone might be exercising as much care as they are capable of, yet still fall below the level of competence expected of them. They could also be aware of the issues, yet choose to put the issue aside because they underestimated the importance.

It is the opposite of "diligence". It can be generally defined as conduct that is culpable because it falls short of what a reasonable person would do to protect another individual from foreseeable risks of harm. In the words of a notable 19th-century judge:

those who go personally or bring property where they know that they or it may come into collision with the persons or property of others have by law a duty cast upon them to use reasonable care and skill to avoid such a collision.

Blackburn J, Rylands v Fletcher [1866] LR 1 Ex 265

Through civil litigation, if an injured person proves that another person acted negligently to cause his injury, he can recover damages to compensate for his harm. Proving a case for negligence can potentially entitle the injured plaintiff to compensation for harm to their body, property, mental well-being, financial status, or intimate relationships.

However, because negligence cases are very fact-specific, this general definition does not fully explain the concept of when the law will require one person to compensate another for losses caused by accidental injury. Further, the law of negligence at common law is only one aspect of the law of liability. Although resulting damages must be proven in order to recover compensation in a negligence action, the nature and extent of those damages are not the primary focus of negligence cases.

IntroductionDuty and breach