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What is Duty?

A person has a duty to fulfill any legal obligation that compels them to act in accordance with a predetermined code of ethics. In the context of cases involving personal injuries, “duty” or “duty of care” typically refers to the obligation to behave in such a way as to avoid causing harm to other individuals.

The term “duty” can refer to a number of different things in the legal system, including the obligation that each of us has to abide by the law, the “duties” or taxes that are levied on imports from other countries, and the responsibilities that trustees have to corporations and other types of contractual agreements. But perhaps the most common application of the word duty is the responsibility that each of us has to avoid causing harm to other people.

When driving, for instance, every motorist has the responsibility to be cautious of those around them. This includes keeping a watchful eye on the road, abiding by the laws of the road, and coming to a complete stop when there is a pedestrian in the street, regardless of whether or not there is a crosswalk nearby.

A person has violated their “duty of care” toward other people when they fail to exercise reasonable caution while driving. For example, failing to watch the road or failing to turn on headlights when driving at night could cause an accident. Because of this lack of consideration for the safety of others, the driver is in violation of their duty of care because they are putting other people in danger.

Negligence refers to the breach of the duty of care that occurs when one is simply careless. Recklessness or gross negligence refers to the intentional breaking of a law or behaving in a way that is extremely dangerous. In either scenario, individuals or businesses who breach their duty of care and cause harm to another person are subject to civil and criminal penalties for their actions.

Examples of Duty of Care

There are some examples of duty of care that are pretty easy to spot. For instance, a motorist who passes a cyclist in a hostile manner when there is insufficient space to do so is clearly in violation of their duty of care, even if the cyclist was causing the motorist some level of inconvenience. In the event of an accident, the cyclist would have a case against the driver if they sustained injuries.

Other examples are not as apparent. Take, for instance, a scenario in which you decide to take your children to a water park. The amusement park features a massive man-made mountain that has a giant waterfall cascading down it. The mountain is covered in robotic animals that move in all directions.

It should come as no surprise that visitors are not permitted to scale the waterfall in any way. Imagine, however, that the safety railings that surround the waterfall are only three feet high. Children would have no problem climbing over them. There is a case to be made that the water park is not meeting its duty of care obligations. 

Even though railings may have been installed around the exhibit, it is common knowledge that children can be rowdy and adventurous. Adolescents do not always comprehend the level of risk associated with a given situation. If the railings aren’t tall enough to stop an average child from falling, then the park’s safety measures are lacking at the most fundamental level.

In the event that a child sustained an injury at the park, a premises liability attorney would almost certainly hold the park at least partially responsible for the incident.

If Someone Breaks Their Duty of Care, Contact an Attorney

If someone breaks their duty of care and it results in any kind of damage, whether it be death, injury, or ruined property, the victims have a strong case against the negligent party. If the victim can demonstrate that the party responsible did not exercise the appropriate level of duty of care, then it is likely that they will be able to hold that party liable for all of the costs and damages that occurred. In other words, the negligent party will be required to compensate the other party.

If you were involved in an accident and believe it was caused by someone who broke their duty of care, our personal injury attorneys can help with your case.

Trying to prove that someone broke their duty of care is not always easy. It often requires the expertise of a specialized attorney if you want to get compensated for your losses.

The Brown Firm has many years of experience representing accident victims. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today.

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