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In personal injury cases, the issue of liability boils down to who was careful and who was careless. Determining fault in a personal injury accident claim is often done under the legal theory of negligence. One of the four elements of determining negligence is the duty of care; this article will discuss the ‘duty of care’ in relation to fault in an accident.

Negligence is defined by the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute [Negligence | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)] as “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” There are four elements that must be proven in a personal injury negligence case, these are:

  • Duty of care
  • Breach of duty of care
  • Injuries
  • Causation

Duty of care is whereby the law requires an individual to act in a reasonably careful manner. With regards to a vehicle driver, the duty of care requires that they use reasonable caution in all aspects of operating their vehicle. This is an obvious duty of care and it is often outlined in the DMV booklet and the tests carried out for an individual to receive a vehicle driving license.

According to the Cornell Law School definition, negligence involves behaving with ‘a level of care’, such a level of care can be rephrased as taking ‘reasonable care’. The basic rule in negligence is that individuals must take reasonable care so as to avoid injury or harm to others. However, it must be noted that when it comes to various forms of personal injury cases, reasonable care varies with regards to time, place, and the relationship between the people. With regards to motorcycle accidents, reasonable care is expected from all road users at all times and on any road. If you require more information as to who was negligent in your motorcycle accident case speak to a Bakersfield motorcycle accident lawyer today.

While the statement, “reasonable care is expected of all road users” may be truthful, to some extent it is vague. Thus, the question arises as to what legal duties drivers have that would qualify as reasonable care. Some examples of legal duties each driver has include the following:

  • Reasonable speed – All drivers have the duty to drive their vehicle at a reasonable speed for the conditions. Such speed does not necessarily have to be the posted speed limit or just below it, rather, a driver needs to be prudent in determining the best speed based on circumstances relating to the existing traffic, weather conditions at the time, visibility, and the road they are traveling on. As a result, a driver may be found to be negligent for driving at the posted speed limit in bad weather or with low visibility.
  • Keeping control of your vehicle – A driver is expected to maintain control of their vehicle at all times. A driver may be found to be negligent if they lose control of their vehicle for any reason.
  • Driver-related state law – Every state has motor vehicle laws that govern how drivers are expected to conduct themselves on the road. Violating such laws presumes negligence.  For example, failing to stop at a traffic signal is a violation of law.
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