Duty of Care and Personal Injury Cases Pt. 1

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When filing a personal injury claim there are many terms that will be introduced to your vocabulary. One of these terms is the “duty of care”. This article and a subsequent one will discuss the duty of care.

The term duty of care plays an important role when it comes to issues relating to fault in a personal injury case. According to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute the duty of care requires people to “act in the same manner as a reasonably prudent person in their position would.” “Prudent” simply means careful. A basic English definition of the phrase is “a moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others”. Generally, each person has a legal duty of care; that is, to act in a reasonable way in order to avoid injuring another person. However, when an individual fails to meet the legal obligation of duty of care, they may be held responsible for any harm or injury that is experienced by others.

In the case of a car accident, if driver Ben hits driver Danny after running a red light, then Danny can sue Ben for injuries and car damage that results from the accident. This is still possible in the case where Ben had no intention of injuring Danny. Ben is likely to be liable for Danny’s injuries because Ben had the duty to act in a reasonable way; and a reasonable action would have been to stop at a red light so as to avoid the possibility of injuring someone. Therefore, Ben owes a duty of care to all other road users by being a reasonable driver. A reasonable driver would not run a red light as this is careless and may result in injury to others. Therefore, Ben breached his duty of care.

The duty of care is acting reasonably so as to uphold the safety of others and is applicable in most situations. That being said, some situations have the law imposing other duties of care. For example, bus drivers owe a higher duty of care to passengers. As a result, a bus company may be liable for the injuries of a passenger when the company was slightly or partially at fault for causing an accident. Further, the law imposes much higher duties of care for some professionals; this includes lawyers and doctors/ health care professionals.

In the case of doctors, they are not only expected to act as a reasonable person but also to act with the standard of skill and professionalism of a similarly trained doctors under the same circumstances in the same geographical area. A breach of a doctor’s duty of care can lead to medical malpractice cases.

Duty of care is not limited to individuals but can extend to businesses as well. This is applicable, for example, in slip and fall accidents, product liability cases, etc. The company, store or business is held liable for injuries resulting from a breach of the business entity’s duty of care.

For more information on a personal injury case, speak to a Bakersfield accident attorney.

The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP is a full-service law firm serving Bakersfield, California and all of Kern County. Our firm is recognized as a leader in the community, and we offer and extensive and wide variety of legal services including, but not limited to water law, personal injury, business law, employment and labor law, estate planning, real estate, and much more. Please reach out today to talk to a member of our team.