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What Does Duty of Care Mean?

August 23 2023 | Personal Injury

Most personal injury cases in Connecticut are founded on the legal doctrine of negligence. Someone is negligent if he or she owed a duty of care to someone else, breached this duty of care and injured the victim. Understanding duty of care is fundamental to bringing a personal injury claim, as violating this duty can give an injured accident victim the right to file a claim for financial compensation. 

What Is a Duty of Care?

In the civil justice system, a duty of care refers to an individual or entity’s legal responsibility to act in a way that a reasonably prudent party would in the same or similar circumstances. If someone has a duty of care, it means he or she has a legal obligation to avoid actions, behaviors and omissions that could cause foreseeable harm to others. This includes carelessness, recklessness, negligence and intentional acts of wrongdoing.

Examples of Duties of Care

A person or organization’s duties of care depend on the circumstances. In a personal injury case, the relationship between the injured victim (plaintiff) and the allegedly at-fault party (defendant) will be assessed to determine the duty of care owed by the defendant, if any. Common examples of duties of care include:

  • A motor vehicle driver’s duty to drive in a safe and responsible manner to avoid causing car accidents and injuring others.
  • A health care provider’s duty to provide a level of patient care that a reasonable physician would under the circumstances.
  • A property owner’s duty to maintain a reasonably safe premises that is free from foreseeable risks, defects and hazards that could injure lawful visitors.

Duties of care only apply in the areas in which the victim relied on the defendant. If it is established that a defendant owed a plaintiff a duty of care and failed to meet the legal responsibilities of this duty, the defendant can be held liable (financially responsible) for negligence in a personal injury claim.

What Constitutes a Breach of the Duty of Care?

A breach of duty is an act or omission that fails to meet the degree of care required for the situation, resulting in harm to someone else. When determining if a breach of duty has occurred, the courts will examine the amount of care the defendant reasonably should have used, whether the defendant should have foreseen the risk of harm to the plaintiff and whether the defendant should have prevented the harm from occurring. If it is determined that the defendant’s conduct did not meet the required standards, he or she has breached the duty of care.

How Do You Establish a Breach of Duty in a Personal Injury Case?

If you get injured in an accident in Connecticut and wish to pursue financial compensation from the responsible party, your attorney will need to establish the defendant’s negligence based on a preponderance of the evidence. This means the evidence proves the defendant’s negligence is more likely to be true than not true. 

 Proving negligence requires evidence that a duty of care was breached and that this was a cause of the accident and injury. Part of a personal injury attorney’s goal during a case is to search for and preserve evidence that proves a breach of duty, such as evidence from the scene of the accident, photographs, surveillance video footage, physical evidence, signed witness statements and an accident report.

An attorney may also retain expert witnesses to testify as to what the defendant’s duty of care would have been based on the circumstances and whether the defendant’s actions constituted a breach of this duty. Expert witnesses are specialists in their subject matter, such as medical experts used to establish the standards of care in a medical malpractice case. 

For more information on duty of care and how this will factor into your personal injury claim in Connecticut, request a free case consultation with a New Haven personal injury attorney at Jacobs & Jacobs.

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