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How can one give advice that he or she thinks is correct without incurring legal liability from possible negative effects of the advice? Is there some phrase that can be used for that? Something like "I don't take responsibility for this advice. I'm just expressing my personal opinion."?

Does this matter if it's done in a blog or personally? If the clause is on a blog's TOS or on every page? If the advisor is an expert in the field he or she is advising about?

  • You can't. I try to examine my own conscience. I ask myself "do I really believe what I am saying?" "How sure am I?" "What level of competence/intelligence is my audience?" I try to make sure the truth of any of these questions is out in the open so that even the most feeble minded person could understand them. – Mr. A May 29 '16 at 12:19
  • @Mr.A Thanks. I'm giving the best advice in my opinion. Though with the full knowledge that every side has pros and cons, and that I'm only human, and might make mistakes. – ispiro May 29 '16 at 12:54
  • @ispiro - FWIW, I just said what I would do. That is not advice. And I could be wrong. I am not an attorney in any jurisdiction. The best advice is always to consult a trained licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. – Mr. A May 29 '16 at 13:43
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    @Mr.A, saying that consulting an attorney is the best advice is advice. Are you prepared to take the legal consequences of your advice? Saying what you would do is a form of giving advice. – user6726 May 29 '16 at 14:06
  • @user6726 - but I'm sure advising someone to see an attorney is rather safe advice. As to what I would do, I would defend myself to the end with the first amendment the ability to express what I would do – Mr. A May 29 '16 at 16:47
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The most important consideration is whether you're giving advice "as" something special. An example would be claiming to be a medical doctor and advising people to do something clearly harmful such as "take 10 Tylenol and call me next week". In such an extreme case, there could be criminal charges. Less severe would be an accountant giving grossly wrong and incompetent tax advice to a client, in which case the accountant could be civilly liable. (For instance, telling a client "you don't have to declare royalties for textbook sales"). In such cases, a client depends on the professional to give competent advice, and you rely on him to work according to a certain professional standard of care. There is a difference between the standard of care that an ordinary "reasonable person" owes to any other person, and the standard of care owed by a professional in an area. What would be excusable bad advice that I might give on how to build a wall would be inexcusable if given by an engineer.

The basic idea is that if you interact with a person (even indirectly, manufacturing something that a 3rd party buys), you have a certain duty to be cautious. If this is just an ordinary-person on ordinary-person interaction, then the parties (both parties) are expected to exhibit the degree of caution that a "reasonable person" would exhibit (attempts to pin down what a "reasonable person" would do have proven impossible, though juries always know subjectively what a reasonable person would do). However, your duty to not give bad advice is offset by the advice-taker's duty to not take bad advice – that is, if a reasonable person would know that taking 10 Tylenol is a bad idea (thus I, as a non-physician might have some duty to not give such stupid advice), then the person who stupidly took 10 Tylenol was contributorily negligent in taking the 10 Tylenol.

As far as I can tell, if you do not represent yourself as a member of a technical guild (lawyer, doctor, accountant, many others) giving technical advice in that capacity, and you are not directly contracting with a person (i.e. they hire you to give them advice on how to keep your yard from falling over the cliff), then you can say stuff like "If X, then you should Y", and not have to pay if someone does that Y and they suffer a loss.

  • I like this answer but could you address the case where you advise someone not to do something and they miss out on a good opportunity? Does that seem like another special case? – Mr. A May 29 '16 at 22:25
  • Actually, I was working on a separate question of my own on that topic. So yes, and soon. – user6726 May 29 '16 at 22:38
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If you are a professional (doctor,attorney, accountant etc.) and you know that the person receiving it will act on your advice, you've to be little careful. Two pointers, maybe experienced people can add more:-

  1. Substantiate it with proper reasoning, data etc.
  2. Have a clean intent , you are giving it for his/her benefit and not for any ulterior motive

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