When a person is injured due to the negligence of another, the injured party may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury lawsuits can be complex and one key concept that is often at the heart of these cases is the duty of care.
While it may be clear who was responsible, there are various requirements under the law that must be proven in order to hold a negligent party financially accountable for an injured party’s losses. In order to successfully pursue a personal injury lawsuit in your state, it is vital to understand the concept of duty of care.
What is the Duty of Care?
Duty of care is a legal obligation that individuals and organizations have to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others. The obligation of care exists in many different areas of law, including tort law, which governs personal injury cases.
In a personal injury lawsuit, duty of care refers to the responsibility that the defendant had to take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to the plaintiff. For example, a driver has a duty of care to everyone on the road. A driver has a duty to fellow drivers, pedestrians, and passengers on the road to operate their vehicle in a responsible manner.
“Every driver on the roadway has a duty to operate safely and within the confines of the law,” note Martinsburg accident lawyers at Manchin Ferretti Injury Law, “there are various ways that drivers can breach their duty of care, including operating while impaired by alcohol or drugs, speeding, operating while distracted, failing to yield the right of way, failing to stop at a stop sign or stop light, failing to use a turn signal, and other actions.”
How Do You Establish a Duty of Care?
To establish that the defendant had a duty of care in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had a relationship that created a legal obligation to use care. In the car accident case, for example, the relationship between the drivers on the road is acceptable to establish a duty of care.
In other cases, such as premises liability cases, the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant may be less clear. The plaintiff must still prove that the defendant had some level of control or influence over the premises where the injury occurred.
Once a duty of care is established, the plaintiff must then show that the defendant breached that duty. The plaintiff must show the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to prevent harm. In a premises liability case, if a property owner knew about a dangerous condition on their property but failed to take any action to remedy it, they may be considered to have breached their duty of care.
The breach of duty must also be the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff must prove that if the defendant lived up to their duty of care, the injuries or losses would not have occurred.
Finally, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty. Damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses associated with the injury. The damages must be directly attributable to the defendant’s breach of duty, and the plaintiff must be able to provide evidence to support their claim for damages.
In some personal injury cases, establishing duty of care can be a complex and contentious issue. In cases involving professional negligence, such as medical malpractice, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to provide a certain standard of care, and that they breached the duty by providing care that fell below that standard. A detailed analysis of the defendant’s professional qualifications, the standard of care expected in their profession, and the specific actions they took in the plaintiff’s case can be involved to prove this type of case.
In other cases, the duty of care may be more straightforward but still require careful consideration. In slip and fall cases, the plaintiff must prove that the property owner had a duty to maintain safe conditions on their property, and that they breached that duty by allowing a dangerous condition to exist. Determining what constitutes a dangerous condition can be subjective. A plaintiff may need to provide evidence to show that the condition was not a result of their own carelessness.
Preparing Your Case
The duty of care is a critical concept in personal injury law, as it establishes the legal obligation that defendants have to take reasonable steps to avoid causing harm to others. To succeed in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed to uphold the duty of care when then resulted in injuries or losses.
If you or a loved one was injured due to someone’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation. Consider consulting with an experienced injury attorney in your area to explore your legal options for financial compensation.