In most personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove the elements of negligence to recover damages for their injuries.
Four elements of negligence must be proven to recover compensation in a personal injury case:
- Duty: there must be a duty of care between the two parties.
- Breach of Duty: that duty of care must have been breached.
- Causation: the breach of the duty of care is the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
- Damages: the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of this injury. These damages can be pain and suffering as well as monetary.
If any of these elements are not satisfied, you likely do not have a successful case. Continue reading to learn more about the second element of negligence: the breach of duty.
What is Duty?
In order to know if a duty was breached, we must discuss what duty is in the first place. Whether or not a duty of care existed between the two parties is the first step in most personal injury cases.
Duty is a legal obligation of care that one person or entity has towards another. The duty of care arises based on the relationship between the two parties.
Everyone generally has a duty of care not to blatantly harm others. Other, more nuanced examples of duty exist as well. The most common situation where duty does not exist is between a bystander and a stranger who needs rescue. The law distinguishes this possible moral obligation from a legal duty of care.
Examples of where a duty of care exists are:
- Between a parent and child
- Between a manufacturer and their consumer
- Between drivers on the road
- Between professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, and their clients
- Between a property owner and their guest
- Between a landlord and their tenant
Duty of care is sometimes a two-way street, such as drivers on the road. Other times it is one-sided, such as a parent and child. If a party who owes a duty of care injures another, there may be a breach of duty.
When is There a Breach of Duty?
Even if you get injured, it does not automatically mean that there was a breach of duty. When it comes to breach, the standard is that of a reasonable person. A reasonable person is a hypothetical person who has common sense and approaches situations in life with an appropriate amount of caution. They take sensible actions and avoid the risks of harming others.
To establish breach, you must prove that the defendant’s actions were not those of a reasonable person. In other words, they did or did not do something that a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.
An example of when the duty of care gets breached is when someone is driving dangerously on the road. If they are speeding, cutting around cars, and driving on the shoulder, that is not the driving of a reasonable person. If they hit someone due to their reckless driving, the driver’s duty of care to others on the road was breached.
When it comes to professional breaches, professionals get held to their own standards of care. A surgeon, for example, would not be able to leave a sponge inside of a patient after surgery. A lawyer would not be able to tell the details of their client’s case to someone they met in a coffee shop. These are standards that are reasonable for the profession.
In the case of a product, if its defect causes an injury or if using a product in the manner it was intended to be used causes injury, there is a breach of duty.
A judge or jury assessing a case will use the reasonable person standard to determine whether a breach occurred.
Contact an Experienced Lexington Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Proving a Breach of Duty
Breach of duty is an important part of most personal injury cases. If you are injured by another party and want to know whether there was a breach of duty, contact an attorney today. They will assess your case and determine if the elements of negligence are met.