Understanding Duty Of Care In A Personal Injury Context

Posted on: 11 July 2018


If you are researching personal injury laws, then it's possible that you have come across the term "duty of care." Like other legal terms or theories, there is more to this phrase other than the literal meaning you may derive from such the phrase.

What Is Duty of Care?

The U.S. government expects you to behave in a manner that doesn't cause injuries to other people or damages to other people's properties. That means you have the responsibility of behaving in a way that doesn't result in injuries or damages to others or other people's properties respectively, and failure to do that may make you liable for the ensuing damages.

For example, a homeowner has the "duty" or responsibility of ensuring that their home is safe so that their visitors don't get injured. Therefore, a homeowner who shirks this duty, digs holes in their front yard, and lets another person sprain their ankle in the hole should pay for the person's injury.

Level of Duty of Care

There are different levels of duty of care; the applicable one depends on the specifics of the circumstance. Some of the factors considered when determining the level of duty of care to assign include:

The Relationship between the Victim and Defendant

Some relationships trigger a special duty of care between different parties. In most of these cases, the special duty of car exists because one party is in a position of authority and has the ability to cause great harm to the other. For example, a doctor has a special duty of care to their patients because their negligence can cause great harm to the patients. In fact, there are professions that automatically trigger a special duty of care because their practitioners have been entrusted with special duties and their negligence can cause great harm. That is why truck drivers, doctors, and school teachers are held to higher standards than other professionals.

The Age of the Defendant

As a rule, minors don't owe as much duty of care to others as compared to those who have reached the age of majority. This is because minors may not be as aware of the consequences of their actions as adults. Therefore, a minor may be free of negligence in an injury case where an adult would have been found negligent.

The Vulnerability of the Victim

Lastly, the vulnerability of the victim will also be considered; the duty of care rises in proportion to the vulnerability of the victim. For example, children, mentally disturbed persons and the elderly are more vulnerable than other members of the society so people owe them a higher duty of care too.

For more information, contact a company like The Fitzpatrick Law Firm.