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What Is Duty of Care?

What Is Duty of Care?

If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may have heard the term “duty of care” linked to their responsibility for your injury. Duty of care is a phrase that pertains to the action or inaction of the defendant related to the situation that caused the plaintiff’s injury. 

Duty of Care Definition

In personal injury law, the duty of care definition can vary slightly depending on the situation. Generally, it’s the idea that everyone has a legal obligation to act reasonably at all times to avoid injuring others. 

If you are operating your vehicle, your Duty of Care is to use the highest degree of care by keeping a careful lookout for other traffic, obeying traffic signs, not speeding, etc. If you own property that is open to the public, you have a duty to make sure the property is reasonably safe, and to warn of or fix any known dangerous conditions.  

When another party’s negligence causes your injury, it’s known as a “breach” of their duty of care. 

How Do I Prove That Someone Breached a Duty of Care?

As you and your experienced personal injury attorney build your case, you will need to prove four different points:

  1. The defendant had a duty of care: You need to prove that the person responsible had a legal obligation to act reasonably when it came to your injury.
  2. The defendant breached the duty of care: This breach is usually seen as negligence, meaning the defendant failed to act in a reasonable manner.
  3. You suffered an injury: You need proof that you suffered an injury. Proof usually comes in the form of a doctor’s diagnosis, but pictures of the injury and cause of injury are also helpful in building a case.
  4. The defendant’s breach caused your injury: Your lawyer will present how the defendant’s negligence in the situation caused your injury.

What Are Some Duty of Care Examples?

To further explain duty of care, here’s an example involving a slip-and-fall case:

You’re walking through a public place, like a grocery store, and you slip on a wet floor, causing a wrist fracture and severe bone bruises. 

The floor was slippery due to the leftover cleaning solution from routine mopping. The employee who cleaned the floor forgot to put down a wet floor sign, so you walked across the floor normally, slipping in the process.

In this instance, the employee/business has a duty of care to display a “wet floor” sign to let customers know that the floor could be slick after they mopped it. Customers have a reasonable expectation that the floor they walk on is free of hazards or that the business will notify them of any hazards.

The breach of duty is the inaction of the employee, as they did not put up a wet floor sign. 

After a visit to the hospital and a diagnosis, your injury is evident, as you’ve fractured your wrist and have several bone bruises. 

The cause of your injury is clear: You slipped on a floor that you did not know was wet because there was no signage to indicate otherwise. 

While premises liability is one example, a breach of duty can go from professional standards, like medical practice, to something as simple as someone running a red light due to distracted driving.

What Is Duty to Act Law?

The phrase “duty to act” can change in meaning depending on the context. In terms of personal injury, duty to act is similar to duty of care. Both laws create the expectation we should act or respond in a particular way in different situations. The difference is that duty to act is when the defendant knew that they should have taken action and chose not to.

Here are three instances where the defendant can be held liable for failure to act:

  1. They created a situation that resulted in the plaintiff’s harm. 
  2. The defendant volunteered to protect the plaintiff and failed to do so.
  3. The defendant knew that their conduct would harm the plaintiff.

Contact Eng and Woods Today.

If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligent behavior, you shouldn’t have to take on the financial burden of your medical bills and lost wages. Contact Eng and Woods Attorneys at Law today to see how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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