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1 Carelessness amounting to the culpable breach of a duty: failure to do or recognize something that a reasonable person (i.e. an average responsible citizen) would do or recognize, or doing something that a reasonable person would not do. In cases of professional negligence, involving someone with a special skill, that person is expected to show the skill of an average member of his profession (Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957] 2 All ER 118 (HL). Negligence may be an element in a few crimes, e.g. careless and inconsiderate driving, and various regulatory offences, which are usually punished by fine. The main examples of serious crimes that may be committed by negligence are sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and manslaughter (in one of its forms). See also gross negligence.

2 A tort consisting of the breach of a duty of care resulting in damage to the claimant. Negligence in the sense of carelessness does not give rise to civil liability unless the defendant's failure to conform to the standards of the reasonable man was a breach of a duty of care owed to the claimant, which has caused damage to him. Negligence can be used to bring a civil action when there is no contract under which proceedings can be brought. Normally it is easier to sue for breach of contract, but this is only possible when a contract exists. Generally, fewer heads of damage can be claimed in negligence than in breach of contract, but the rules limiting the time within which actions can be brought (see limitation) may be more advantageous for actions in tort for negligence than for actions in contract. See also Bolam test; contributory negligence; res ipsa loquitur.

Subjects: Law

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