What Is Negligence And Neglect In The Law?

In legal terms, the words negligence and neglect are related but do have differences. Neglect to an extent falls under the larger umbrella of negligence when it comes to definition.


This is failure or omission to do something required of you. It can also be described as a type of abuse where a person fails to care for someone who cannot care for him or herself.

Types of neglect are categorized under medical, educational and physical.


Negligence is defined as the failure to exercise a degree of care that, in normal circumstances, the law requires for the protection of other persons and/or their interests.

Negligence may further be broken down into civil and criminal negligence.

Civil Negligence

This is the failure to use reasonable care (care which a reasonable person would exercise), which results in damage or injury in a person. To establish civil negligence, one must prove all four elements of the case. They are duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Criminal Negligence

This is when a person ignores an obvious risk or disregards the life and safety of those around him. To prove criminal negligence an attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the accused acted recklessly and given the same situation, a reasonable person would not act in the same manner.

The Difference between Criminal and Civil Negligence

Both civil and criminal negligence describes the failure to exercise ‘reasonable standards of care’ in certain circumstances as ‘reasonable persons’ would. Still, there are some clear differences.

Criminal negligence requires someone to fail to know of a substantial and unjustifiable risk to be convicted, civil negligence does not.

If an act can be termed as ‘gross’ deviation from a reasonable standard of care, then it is criminal negligence. Alternately, ‘any’ deviation from a reasonable standard of care is termed as civil negligence.

These differences make proving criminal negligence much harder as opposed to civil negligence.

Criminal Intent?

To find someone guilty of a crime, it has to be proven that the person who committed the criminal act had the appropriate criminal intent. This is the willingness and desire to commit the act.

The different levels of criminal intent include intentional behavior, criminal negligent behavior, and reckless behavior.

In conclusion, neglect falls under the wider term of negligence. There are still facets therein that distinguish the two terms from one another, but the similarities will always exist. If faced with a legal situation needing further assistance, do not hesitate to get in touch with an attorney.