Examples of Negligence or 'Delict'

Delict is simply a term used in civil law whereby an act of negligence or a wilful wrong gives rise to a legal obligation between the parties, even though there is no written or verbal contract.

In laymen’s terms, if an individual is deemed to have acted negligently, by driving drunk for instance, and this wilful negligence has caused injury or damages to another party, then the negligent party should and will be liable for medical costs and any other damages agreed to in a court of law.

In South Africa, the Law of Delict has been regulated and there are basically five elements that have to be scrutinised and accepted by the courts before the claimant is successful and these are:

  • Conduct – was it negligence or the failure to take action that caused the accident or damages, or was it a wilful, positive action? 
  • Wrongfulness – the conduct under the microscope should be viewed as totally reprehensible by the community at large. 
  • Fault – once the wrongfulness of the conduct has been established, it is imperative to ascertain whether or it is blameworthy or not. 
  • Causation – The conduct under scrutiny must have caused damages, but if the consequences of the action were too remote to have been foreseen by a reasonable, objective person, then the defendant will escape liability. 
  • Damage – the conduct must have resulted in loss or harm to the claimant.

Insurance brokers will tell you it is not only big institutions that need insurance, and they are not wrong. Virtually every single one of us could become embroiled in a civil case if deemed negligent and hence personal and business liability insurance is a must.

If, for example, a group of children comes to your house to play with your child and one of them falls into the pool and drowns. You can and will be held liable for damages if the claimant can prove you were negligent by not having adequate fencing around the pool, or by not insisting an adult be present at the poolside.

In South Africa, driving under the influence has become a very real problem and each year there are more and more fatalities on our roads. The guilty party, apart from facing criminal charges, will also be liable for civil damages as driving drunk is a wilful and conscious wrongful act, strictly prohibited by law.


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