Duty of Care: How it Works

By James Parker
/
August 18, 2021

“Duty of care” is one of the most important factors for proving negligence in a personal injury lawsuit. But what exactly does it mean?

Duty of care is the responsibility that one person owes another. This can be very specific, such as the fiduciary duties of a banker to their clients or a doctor’s duty to act in their patient’s best interest. Duty of care can also be very broad. In the United States, all citizens have a duty of care to act as reasonable citizens.

The term “reasonable” is defined in law as the level of care and prudence that another person would have in a similar situation. The level of effort required to maintain a person’s duty of care can vary from situation to situation. At work or on the street, a person’s duty of care can be summarized as not being at risk to others in a dangerous situation. When driving, the duty of care usually includes following all traffic laws and being aware of one’s surroundings.

When a personal injury suit is filed, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant has violated their duty of care through either negligence or recklessness. That recklessness or negligence is the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

There are a few ways to measure whether a duty of care was violated. Usually when determining the liability of a defendant the judge will consider the following:

  • How foreseeable was the plaintiff’s injury from the defendant’s actions?
  • To what extent has the plaintiff been injured?
  • How closely is the defendant's behavior responsible for the plaintiff’s injury or other damages?
  • What kinds of insurance could have been used to mitigate the risks involved in the plaintiff’s injury?

For example, if the plaintiff was injured in a bus accident and broke their arm while the defendant was driving, then the defendant may have breached their duty of care. As a bus driver, it is foreseeable that an accident may occur and they should be cautious in their driving. Additionally, the defendant’s behavior, getting into an accident, is directly responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, a broken arm. These factors taken together could be understood to imply that the bus driver failed to maintain their duty of care to the plaintiff.

If, however, the defendant was another passenger whose heavy briefcase had injured the plaintiff when the bus they were both riding on crashed, the facts change. Now the duty of care of the defendant is much different. Rather than being responsible for the safety of the entire bus, the defendant could argue they were only responsible for not waving their briefcase around. 

Additionally, the defendant’s lawyer may argue that the briefcase was not solely responsible for the injuries of the plaintiff, but that the crashing bus caused the plaintiff to fly into the briefcase. In this case, it’s more difficult to determine whether the duty of care has been breached. 

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To recover that compensation, you will need a personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney can file your case, preserve evidence, request a medical examination for the record, and find witnesses to strengthen your case. The best place to find an experienced personal injury attorney is Attorney at Law.

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms allows us to match you with the best personal injury attorneys in your area. Our partners have the resources, legal expertise, and experience to pursue your case against the toughest corporations in the nation. In addition to a distinctive case record and ample resources, our partners excel in client care.

Don’t wait. Contact AAL today for a free, no obligation consultation and begin your journey to justice.

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