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The majority of liability claims brought under policies in the United Kingdom are in actions of alleged negligence by the policyholder but what is negligence and what conditions need to exist in order for a claim to succeed.

In order for an action in negligence to succeed the it is important to note that liability in negligence is not automatically upon the defendant simply because they have acted in a negligent way.

Where does the onus of proof lie in an action in negligence?

In actions in negligence the onus of proof lies with the plaintiff to show that the defendant has been negligent and that the following three conditions have been met. This is not the case in claims deemed res ipsa loquitur.

What must the plaintiff demonstrate in order for an action in negligence to succeed?

The plaintiff must demonstrate that

  • the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
  • that there has been a breach of that duty of care
  • that the plaintiff has suffered injury or damage as a result of that breach

What is the definition of negligence?

There are various definitions of negligence but this is the one in most common usage and provides a clear understanding of what negligence is.

In the case Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks Co 1856 negligence was defined by the presiding judge, Sir Edward Hall Alderson as

Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.”

In his dismissal of the case against Birmingham Waterworks he went on to say that

“The defendants might have been liable for negligence, if, unintentionally, they omitted to do that which a reasonable person would have done, or did that which a person taking reasonable precautions would not have done.”

As always, if you have any questions about this or any insurance related matter feel free to contact us directly.