September 26, 2023

Negligence refers to the actions or inactions of one person, causing an accident that harms another. For a person to be found liable for damages suffered by another, the complainant must prove that the defendant acted negligently by proving the four main elements of negligence: a duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

The duty of care is the responsibility one person has over the other. For example, a driver owes a duty of care to all road users. If they act in a manner that doesn’t uphold that duty, they will be in breach of duty.

Suppose the breach results in an accident where another driver or road user suffers harm. In that case, all four elements of negligence will be present, and the driver will carry liability for the accident.

What Is Criminal Negligence

Negligence can be ordinary or criminal. Ordinary negligence, also known as civil negligence, is usually a result of an unintentional deviation from the duty of care. For example, when a driver causes an accident due to a cognitive distraction.

Criminal negligence occurs when a person acts in a manner that is in blatant disregard for the safety of others. For example, suppose a driver is texting while driving and causes an accident, or they are traveling at a speed way over the posted limit, causing an accident. In that case, that can be found criminally negligent in causing an accident.

Other offenses that result from criminal negligence include negligent storage of firearms, involuntary manslaughter, or negligent keeping of a dangerous dog. The prosecution must prove the defendant acted recklessly and that a reasonable person would know that their actions would create risks to severe bodily harm or death to have a person convicted of criminal negligence.

There Are Different Outcomes

The outcomes of civil and criminal negligence also differ significantly. Civil negligence cases do not end with the defendant facing criminal charges. After a court finds a defendant civilly liable, the most common outcome is to have the defendant pay for the damages suffered by the complainant.

“The only possibility of facing criminal charges in such circumstances is if they fail to comply with the court’s directions regarding paying damages to the complainant,” says lawyer William Bailey of BK Law Group. In criminal negligence cases, the defendant can face fines, jail time, and probation, besides paying for damages suffered by the other party.

The level of proof for the two types of negligence also differs. To prove civil negligence, the complainant only needs to show that the defendant more likely than not caused an accident. For criminal negligence, the prosecution must prove the claims of criminal negligence beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, they must show that there cannot be another explanation besides that fact.

Criminal Negligence And Intent

For a defendant to get a criminal negligence conviction, the prosecution must prove intent, malice, or aforethought. For example, for a person to be found guilty of murder, the prosecution must prove they killed somebody and had aforethought of the crime before committing it.

In criminal negligence, there is no requirement that the defendant had an aforethought in committing the crime. For example, drivers participating in drag racing may not intend to kill. If racing causes an accident where a person dies, they will be held criminally culpable based on implied intent.

The defendant can be charged with criminal negligence even where no one was hurt as long as their actions had the potential of causing an accident.