In personal injury law, most claims are based on a theory of negligence, or carelessness. Negligence has four elements, which include a breach of a duty of care. But what exactly does it mean to say that someone breached their duty of care?
A duty is a requirement to act – or refrain from acting – in a certain way. For example, drivers have a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and to obey traffic laws. If a person violates that duty in some way, such as by running a red light, then they may be held responsible for any injuries that result.
The Odierno Law Firm is dedicated to helping injury victims get the money that they deserve for their injuries. We offer free initial consultations and handle all cases on a contingency fee basis. To learn more, reach out to talk to an experienced New York personal injury lawyer.
The Elements of a Negligence Claim
Most personal injury cases involve a question of negligence. This legal concept is often equated to carelessness. A person is considered negligent when they fail to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, then you (the plaintiff) must prove that the at-fault party (defendant) was negligent in some way. There are four elements to a negligence claim:
- Duty: the defendant owed you a duty of care.
- Breach: the defendant violated that duty of care in some way.
- Causation: this violation was the proximate or but-for cause of your injuries.
- Damages: you suffered damages as a result.
Many personal injury cases center around the question of whether the defendant owed you a duty of care and if so, whether they violated that duty. A duty of care can be different in certain scenarios. Drivers generally owe a duty of care to others to (1) operate their vehicles safely and (2) obey all traffic laws. However, if a driver has been hired to transport people (such as a bus driver), then they may owe their passengers an even higher duty of care.
People owe others a duty of care in other contexts as well. For example, property owners owe people who come onto their property a duty to fix or warn of dangerous conditions. However, they do not necessarily owe the same level of care to a person who is trespassing on their property.
As you can see, the concept of a duty of care can be complicated. The best way to determine if someone owed you a duty of care – and if their violation of that duty caused your injuries – is to schedule a free consultation with a Long Island personal injury attorney.
When Has Someone Breached the Duty of Care?
It isn’t enough to establish that a person had a duty of care to you in a personal injury case. You must also show that they breached or violated that duty in some way.
This can happen in any number of ways. Essentially, the question is whether the defendant’s conduct fell short of what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation. This is a fact-based inquiry, which means that the answer depends on the specific facts of the case.
Consider a situation where a homeowner knows that their front steps are crumbling, but doesn’t fix them or warn anyone of this dangerous condition. If someone falls down on their stairs and gets hurt because of this hazard, they will likely be found to have breached their duty of care. However, if someone tries to break into their house and falls down as they run down the stairs, they probably have not breached a duty of care to this trespasser.
Examples of where a duty of care is breached include:
- A drunk driver crosses the center lane of a highway and causes a head-on collision
- A delivery truck driver texts and drives and rear-ends another vehicle because of it
- A store fails to put up caution signs after mopping the floor, and a customer slips and falls on the wet floor
- A company knows that its product can start a fire if the battery charges for too long, but does not warn consumers or change the design to avoid the fire risk
If a defendant’s breach of their duty of care caused injuries to another person, then they can be held liable for any injuries that the person suffered as a result.
Call Our Law Firm Today for a Free Consultation
Personal injury cases may seem relatively straightforward: a person does something to cause an injury, and the victim gets a settlement or verdict. In reality, they often involve complicated issues of both fact and law. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you get the money that you deserve for your injuries.
At The Odierno Law Firm, our goal is to help our clients get the highest possible recovery for their injuries. If you have been hurt in an accident, we will fight for your right to full compensation. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, give our law office a call at 631-752-8580 or fill out our online contact form.
The Odierno Law Firm, P.C., a personal injury firm serving the residents of Long Island, has been dedicated to helping the wrongfully injured recover the compensation that they deserve for the past 30 years. The legal team at our firm handles a wide variety of injury cases such as: auto accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death and many more! Our firm understands how devastating it can be to suffer a serious injury at the hands of a negligent party or individual, and for this reason, we do whatever we can to help our clients obtain the justice that they are looking for. If you have been involved in an accident and you believe that someone else is responsible for causing your injuries, do not hesitate to contact an experienced lawyer from our firm today. We offer a free consultation to anyone that is looking for answers.