Negligence and compensation in a civil case


Where a person has acted negligently and their negligence has caused you loss, you may be entitled to compensation from that person. This can arise in a number of contexts.

For instance, you could be injured in a car accident due to another road user’s negligence. You may sustain injuries during an assault or during a poorly carried out medical procedure. Your house or apartment could be poorly constructed and you may be entitled to sue those responsible for its construction. You may receive advice which is fundamentally incorrect and, after acting upon it, find out that you are financially worse off.

For an act or omission of a wrongdoer to be negligent in the legal sense:

  • The wrongdoer must owe you a duty of care
  • The wrongdoer must have failed to meet that duty of care in their actions
  • The act or omission must have been the cause of your loss

A duty of care arises where it is reasonably foreseeable that if a person acts negligently, they will hurt you and there is some relationship between them and you.

For example, a driver has a duty of care to other road users. A business has a duty of care to its customers. A doctor has a duty of care to their patients.

In deciding whether a wrongdoer has failed to meet their duty of care, their actions are judged against an objective standard.

In other words, did the driver exercise the normal amount of caution in the circumstances? Did the business comply with all its obligations? Did the doctor act to the standard of a comparable colleague?

If you are entitled to compensation, it will normally be composed of 2 elements:

  1. General damages for the non-financial losses, such as pain and suffering
  2. Special damages for the financial losses, such as loss of income and extra expenses

Negligence in the context of an accident

It is not enough to have been in an accident or to have suffered injury in order to obtain compensation from the courts. It must be clear that the party or parties you have sued were to blame for the accident and the injuries that you have suffered.

It may be the case that a number of people are partly to blame for an accident, including the person suing. In that situation, the court will apportion or divide the blame between the different people involved.

For example, a driver who suffered injury in a car accident in circumstances where they were not wearing a seat-belt may be 15% to blame for the injuries they suffered. As a result, the court may only award then 85% of the compensation that their injuries are valued at.

Your claim for compensation will be divided into two parts.

General damages

This is compensation for the pain, suffering and inconvenience you experienced and will continue to experience as a result of the accident.

The court will decide the level of damages by estimating the gravity of the injuries. It will do this by considering all the medical evidence put before it, notably the pain already suffered by the person suing and the prognosis for the future – that is, how long and to what intensity the injured party is likely to continue suffering.

Special damages

This is compensation for the financial costs and expenses, both past and future, you incurred as a result of the accident. This would include the cost of repairing your car (if relevant), the medical costs you incurred, your loss of earnings as a result of being unable to go to work and all expenses, including travel, home-help and similar, you incurred.

You may be asked to produce receipts and bills to prove you have incurred all of these expenses so it is important to keep a file of every bill and receipt.

Further Information

If you are involved in litigation or legal proceedings, you will probably need legal representation. You can learn more about accessing civil legal aid and advice in Ireland.

To enquire whether you are eligible for legal aid or advice from the Legal Aid Board, contact your nearest law centre. You can also contact your nearest Citizens Information Centre for information on FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) services in your area.

Page edited: 12 June 2020