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What Is Negligence? Where and How Can It Affect You?

When it comes to the law, negligence is defined as the failure to take reasonable care not to cause injury or loss to another person. If you are the victim of negligence, it can have far-reaching and even life-affecting impacts.

From real estate ownership to professional conduct and the workplace, negligence can be applied to a broad spectrum of areas. The following is your guide to negligence, and where and how it can affect you.

How It Works

Negligence generally falls under civil law, meaning it is not a crime that has been committed against society as a whole but is an action against an individual who may be entitled to compensation for their loss or injury. It is usually dealt with by compensation lawyers and is part of the reason public liability insurance exists.

When looking at negligence, the plaintiff (person and legal team bringing the case to court) has to prove four factors:

  1. That the person being sued had a duty of care to the plaintiff at the time of the act of negligence. To establish this, there must be some sort of relationship between the two parties (e.g. landlord and tenant, doctor and patient, employer and employee).
  2. That this duty of care was breached.
  3. That the plaintiff suffered injury or loss.
  4. That the injury or loss for the individual was a result of this breach of duty.


The most common acts of negligence can be found in everyday situations. For example, it is reasonably assumed that every driver has a reasonable duty of care when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Therefore, if they run into the rear of another vehicle and injure the occupant because they were not adequately observing their surroundings, this could provide a basis for negligence.

Similarly, on private property, a landlord could be found to be negligent if they had been made aware of a broken stair railing that was left unfixed and later resulted in a tenant injuring themselves. In a situation like this, contacting a lawyer is usually a good idea.

Meanwhile, in the workplace, an employer failing to instigate proper workplace health and safety practices that result in injury or loss to an employee could also be grounds for a case of negligence. In most workplaces, your workplace health and safety rep is the first point of contact.

Your council’s failure to trim its street trees, resulting in damage to a parked car beneath from a falling branch, may also be a case for negligence. Meanwhile, there have been successful negligence claims in the past from customers slipping on unmarked wet floors at supermarkets.

What to Do

If you feel you may have a case for negligence, it is important to seek legal advice from an experienced law firm or touch base with legal aid. Time constraints apply to any negligence claims. It’s also worth bearing in mind that taking a case to court can be costly and time-consuming, but, if your claim is serious, legal proceedings can help the victim gain redress and move on with their lives.

Have you experienced negligence in any of the aforementioned areas? Could your experience benefit someone else in a similar situation? If so, please share your insights in the comments below.