Define: Advertent Negligence

Advertent Negligence
Advertent Negligence
Quick Summary of Advertent Negligence

Advertent negligence, also referred to as willful negligence or reckless behaviour, occurs when an individual knowingly engages in actions that could result in harm. Unlike unintentional negligence, where the person may be unaware of the risks involved, advertent negligence involves a lack of care and disregard for necessary precautions to prevent harm.

What is the dictionary definition of Advertent Negligence?
Dictionary Definition of Advertent Negligence

Advertent negligence, also referred to as willful negligence or supine negligence, occurs when the individual responsible for an action is fully aware of the unreasonable risk they are creating. To illustrate, consider a driver who knowingly operates a vehicle with faulty brakes, endangering themselves and others on the road. Similarly, a construction worker who deliberately neglects to secure a ladder, causing it to fall and harm someone, exemplifies advertent negligence. In both instances, the responsible party is conscious of the potential harm but proceeds regardless. This form of negligence is deemed more severe than inadvertent negligence, where the individual is unaware of the risk they are imposing. Advertent negligence can lead to legal repercussions and liability for damages.

Full Definition Of Advertent Negligence

Negligence is a fundamental concept within tort law, defining a breach of duty that results in harm to another. Among its various forms, advertent negligence is a distinct type, characterized by a conscious awareness of risk that the negligent party nevertheless disregards. This overview explores the nature of advertent negligence, its legal principles, and its application within British jurisprudence.

Definition and Key Elements

Advertent negligence, sometimes referred to as “recklessness,” involves a situation where the defendant is aware of the risk their actions pose but decides to proceed regardless. This contrasts with inadvertent negligence, where the party fails to recognise the risk altogether.

The key elements of advertent negligence are:

  • Duty of Care: The defendant must owe a duty of care to the claimant.
  • Breach of Duty: There must be a breach of this duty through an act or omission.
  • Awareness of Risk: The defendant must have actual knowledge of the risk their actions present.
  • Disregard for Risk: Despite this awareness, the defendant proceeds with their actions.
  • Causation: The breach of duty must cause harm to the claimant.
  • Damages: The claimant must suffer actual damage as a result.

Duty of Care

Establishing a duty of care is the cornerstone of negligence claims. In British law, this was famously elucidated in the case of Donoghue v Stevenson (1932), where Lord Atkin’s “neighbour principle” set the precedent. According to this principle, one must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions likely to injure their “neighbours,” those who are closely and directly affected by one’s actions.

In advertent negligence, the scope of duty remains consistent with general negligence principles. The defendant must owe a duty of care to the claimant, whether through a contractual relationship, statutory obligation, or the general duty to avoid foreseeable harm.

Breach of Duty and Standard of Care

A breach of duty occurs when the defendant’s actions fall below the standard of care expected under the circumstances. The standard is typically that of the “reasonable person,” an objective measure of how a prudent person would act in similar circumstances.

In advertent negligence, the breach is characterized by conscious disregard. The defendant must not only fail to meet the standard of care but do so with an awareness of the risk. This subjective element distinguishes advertent from inadvertent negligence. The courts assess whether the defendant recognised the risk and deliberately chose to ignore it.

Awareness and Disregard of Risk

Central to advertent negligence is the defendant’s actual knowledge of the risk. This awareness can be direct, through explicit recognition, or inferred from the circumstances. For instance, if a driver speeds through a busy pedestrian area, it is inferred they are aware of the risk of causing an accident.

The disregard for risk entails a decision to proceed despite this awareness. This element often intersects with concepts of recklessness. The courts examine the defendant’s state of mind, considering whether their conduct showed a blatant indifference to the consequences. This subjective analysis can be challenging, requiring careful evaluation of the evidence.

Causation and Damage

Causation in negligence involves two tests: factual causation and legal causation. Factual causation is determined using the “but for” test – but for the defendant’s actions, would the harm have occurred? Legal causation considers whether the harm was a foreseeable result of the breach.

In advertent negligence cases, demonstrating causation involves linking the defendant’s conscious disregard for risk to the claimant’s harm. The courts must be satisfied that the defendant’s breach was not only a cause in fact but also a proximate cause of the damage.

The claimant must also prove actual damage. This can be physical injury, financial loss, or other forms of harm recognised by law. Without demonstrable damage, a negligence claim cannot succeed.

Legal Precedents and Case Law

British courts have addressed advertent negligence in various contexts. Key cases illustrate how the principles are applied and interpreted.

R v Cunningham (1957)

In criminal law, advertent negligence closely relates to recklessness. In R v Cunningham, the defendant removed a gas meter to steal money, causing gas to leak and endanger a neighbour. The court defined recklessness as foreseeing the risk but proceeding anyway, setting a precedent for understanding advertent negligence in both criminal and civil contexts.

Smith v Leech Brain & Co Ltd (1962)

This case involved an employee who suffered a burn due to his employer’s negligence, leading to cancer and death. The court held the employer liable, emphasising that the foreseeability of harm, even if not the specific type, suffices for causation. This principle is relevant in advertent negligence where awareness of some risk is key, even if the exact outcome is unforeseen.

Bolton v Stone (1951)

In this case, a cricket ball hit a passer-by outside the cricket ground. The court considered the likelihood of harm and concluded that the risk was too remote for the defendants to be liable. This illustrates that in advertent negligence, not only must there be awareness of risk, but the risk must be significant and not trivial.

Advertent Negligence vs. Gross Negligence

Advertent negligence is often compared to gross negligence, where the latter involves severe carelessness without necessarily any awareness of risk. Gross negligence reflects a significant departure from the standard of care, often equated with serious incompetence or extreme indifference. While advertent negligence requires a conscious decision to take the risk, gross negligence does not.

Application in Professional Negligence

Advertent negligence is particularly pertinent in professional settings, where practitioners are expected to uphold high standards of care. For instance, a doctor who performs a risky procedure without adequate preparation, knowing the potential harm, could be liable for advertent negligence. Similarly, a lawyer who disregards known legal risks, causing loss to a client, may face claims under this principle.

Defences to Advertent Negligence

Several defences can mitigate or negate liability in advertent negligence claims:

  • Contributory Negligence: If the claimant contributed to their own harm, damages may be reduced.
  • Volenti non fit injuria: If the claimant voluntarily assumed the risk, they may be barred from recovery.
  • Ex turpi causa: If the claimant was engaged in illegal activities at the time of injury, they might be precluded from claiming damages.

Policy Considerations

Advertent negligence has significant implications for public policy and legal practice. It underscores the importance of holding individuals and entities accountable for conscious disregard of risks, promoting a culture of responsibility. However, it also raises concerns about over-penalisation and the need for clear standards to avoid subjective judgments.


Advertent negligence occupies a critical space within British tort law, balancing the need for accountability with the complexities of human behaviour. By requiring proof of awareness and disregard of risk, it addresses situations where mere inadvertence is insufficient to establish liability. As legal principles evolve, advertent negligence continues to shape the landscape of duty and care, reflecting societal expectations of prudence and responsibility. Through case law and statutory developments, British jurisprudence seeks to refine this concept, ensuring justice for claimants while safeguarding against unfair burdens on defendants.

Advertent Negligence FAQ'S

Advertent negligence refers to a situation where a person intentionally fails to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another person or their property.

Advertent negligence involves intentional disregard for the safety or well-being of others, while inadvertent negligence refers to a lack of reasonable care or unintentional actions that lead to harm.

Examples of advertent negligence may include intentionally causing a car accident, purposefully failing to maintain a safe working environment, or knowingly selling a defective product.

The consequences of advertent negligence can vary depending on the specific circumstances, but they may include legal liability, financial damages, criminal charges, and potential imprisonment.

Yes, advertent negligence can be considered a criminal offense if it involves intentional actions that violate the law, such as assault, fraud, or intentional property damage.

To prove advertent negligence, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant intentionally failed to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury. This can be done through evidence such as witness testimonies, surveillance footage, or expert opinions.

Yes, a person can still be held liable for advertent negligence even if no harm occurred. The focus is on the intentional disregard for the safety of others, rather than the actual outcome.

Possible defences against advertent negligence claims may include lack of intent, lack of evidence, or the presence of contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff.

Yes, a business can be held responsible for advertent negligence committed by its employees if the actions were within the scope of their employment or if the business failed to properly train or supervise its employees.

If you believe you have been a victim of advertent negligence, it is important to gather evidence, document the incident, and consult with a qualified attorney who specializes in personal injury or negligence cases. They can guide you through the legal process and help you seek compensation for your damages.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 7th June 2024.

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