When you need to file a personal injury claim, you may hear the term “duty of care” a great deal. What exactly is a duty of care, and how does it apply to your personal injury claim? In this guide, the attorneys at Flora Templeton Stuart Accident Injury Lawyers will break down ‘duty of care’ and explain how is can impact your personal injury claim.
In tort law, also known as personal injury law, the “duty of care” is the legal obligation that indicates that an individual or entity must provide some reasonable of care while performing an act that could harm others. When one individual or entity has a duty of care to another, they must take some steps to decrease the likelihood of injury to that party, or exercise care while performing a specific task, in order to reduce the risk of injury.
The term duty of care can encompass a number of things, depending on the scenario in which an accident with injuries may occur.
Every time a driver takes to the road, he bears a duty of care to all drivers on the road to exercise caution, watchfulness, and reasonable decision-making in an effort to help reduce injury potential for everyone: pedestrians, other drivers and their passengers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and anyone else who shares the road, including construction workers who may be working nearby.
Violating the duty of care in a car accident may be as simple as texting or talking on the phone while driving, speeding, or ignoring stop signs and red lights: all actions that can increase the danger to others around that driver and raise the chances of a serious accident.
In general, when you enter someone else’s property–including businesses and government properties–you have a reasonable expectation of a safe experience. You assume that you can safely use the stairs, walk across the floor, and avoid falling objects. In the case of premises owners, maintaining their duty of care to visitors means ensuring that those visitors do not face undue danger just by entering a property.
A premises owner who violates the duty of care to visitors to that property may commit errors like failing to properly maintain the property, failing to clean it up in a timely manner when spills and wet flooring happens, or failing to post warnings about potential hazards on the property.
Dog owners bear a duty of care to their guests, neighbors, and anyone who may encounter their dog. They must provide a reasonable standard of care to control their dog’s behavior and abide by all pet laws, such as leashing the dog in public. Chains, fences, warning signs, or other methods to prevent the animal from getting loose may satisfy a dog owner’s duty of care.
However, if the dog has a history of being aggressive or is a particularly dangerous breed, additional steps by the owner may be necessary to prevent injury to others. By failing to control their pet’s behavior or properly restrain the animal, the duty of care has been violated and the pet owner will be liable for any damages the dog may cause.
Like other kinds of personal injury cases, accidents resulting in death must prove fault using the four elements of negligence. In a wrongful death case, the surviving family must prove that another party’s negligence directly resulted in the death of the loved one. If the individual who is responsible for the death is found liable, then they must pay for the damages stemming from the accident, such as loss of income, funeral expenses, and pain & suffering.
Sometimes, you can clearly establish duty of care: for example, when you get into a car, you know that every other driver on the road shares a duty of care to you and to one another. Other times, however, it may prove more difficult to establish whether the other party involved in a case bore that duty of care and, just as important, violated it in some way.
A lawyer will look at three critical factors to help determine whether the liable party had a duty of care to take certain specific actions in order to prevent the possibility of injury and whether a specific party may have violated that duty of care in some way.
In order to claim a violation of the duty of care, you will need to show that you were close to the defendant–or the defendant’s property–at the time of the accident.
Suppose, for example, that, while commuting to work one day, you see a driver texting and driving. That driver looks down for a considerable period of time. If that driver swerves into you, causing an accident, that driver has violated their duty of care to you and may face liability for the accident.
On the other hand, suppose that the driver did not swerve into you. You reduce your rate of speed, and the driver makes it well past you. While watching the driver, you accidentally allow your car to drift out of its assigned lane, and you have an accident. In this case, the texting driver was not directly responsible for the accident and would not bear liability.
In order to bear liability for an accident–and to show that they have violated the duty of care–the defendant must have been able to reasonably anticipate the potential for an accident that resulted in serious harm. If the defendant could not have been reasonably expected to anticipate the risk of an accident, the defendant may not bear direct liability for the accident.
Take a premises liability claim, for example. You visit a business that has been in a particular location for several years. The property remains clean, but it has seen better days. While going up a flight of stairs, you lean on the handrail, which breaks, sending you tumbling to the ground. The property owner should reasonably have known that the handrail had degraded over time–or might even have known about the steady degradation and put off taking care of the repairs–and so therefore may bear liability for that damage.
If, however, the property owner had recently replaced that handrail, but it broke away from the wall, or if the property owner tested the handrail regularly and assumed that it was sturdy, but later discovered that it wasn’t, the property owner may not have violated that vital duty of care.
Sometimes, it might not be fair to hold someone responsible for a dangerous or damaging incident. In some cases, even if the defendant exercises their best efforts, an accident might still occur. “Fair, just, and reasonable” may depend on a variety of factors, and you may need to work closely with a lawyer in order to clearly establish that filing a claim is reasonable, based on the conditions that led to the accident.
Establishing a duty of care is a critical part of filing a personal injury claim in Bowling Green. If you have suffered serious injuries due to another party’s negligence, Flora Templeton Stuart Accident Injury Lawyers help you establish that duty of care and the other grounds you need for your claim.
With over 46 years of experience representing the injured and offices located in Bowling Green, we provide personal representation to our clients. We also travel and do not charge a fee unless we win your case. Contact us today to learn more.