Most personal injury cases are based on the tort law of negligence. Negligence is based on a duty of care owed from one party to another party. When one party breaches the duty of care, that party can be held liable for damages.
To understand a breach of duty, it is helpful to first look at what constitutes a duty and how both concepts fit into a negligence claim.
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What is a Duty of Care?
A duty is defined as a requirement to perform some conduct by custom, law, personal commitment, or morality. For example, in personal injury cases, a duty of care is the requirement to act with reasonable prudence to avoid causing injury to another person.
The duty of care arises from the relationship between the parties. For instance, physicians owe a duty of care to their patients to provide medical care that meets or exceeds the acceptable standard of care for a given situation. Likewise, property owners owe a duty of care to visitors to maintain the premises in a safe condition to avoid accidents or injuries.
Even motorists owe a duty of care to all other people using the road. They have a duty of care to operate their motor vehicles safely, avoid dangerous driving behaviors and obey all traffic laws.
What Constitutes a Breach of Duty in a Negligence Case?
Duty of care is the first element in a negligence claim. A breach of duty is the second element.
When a party breaches the duty of care, the party fails to act with reasonable care and concern to prevent the risk of harm to another person. For example, in a slip and fall case, it is alleged that the defendant owed the duty to the plaintiff. The defendant is the landlord who owns the property, and the plaintiff is a tenant.
Under the legal theory of duty of care, the defendant is required to maintain the premises in a safe condition. Therefore, allowing the stairway to crumble because of termites could be considered a breach of duty.
If the tenant falls down the stairs because of the termite damages, a jury may find the defendant has breached the duty of care by failing to fix the stairs or warn the tenants of the dangerous condition.
But how does the juror know what constitutes a breach of duty in a given situation? Enter the “reasonable person” standard.
What is the Reasonable Person Standard?
The “reasonable person” is a standard used to measure whether the defendant’s actions breached the duty of care owed to the plaintiff. The “reasonable person” does not exist. Instead, it is a subjective standard based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
The jurors in a case determine what a person of reasonable and ordinary prudence would have done in the same or similar circumstances. Therefore, the standard is case-specific and could change when the facts change.
Jurors compare the defendant’s acts to what a reasonable person would have done in the situation. If the defendant’s conduct fell short of the reasonable person standard, the defendant breached the duty of care.
For instance, a jury decides that a reasonable person would not drive while under the influence of painkillers. However, the defendant chose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence of prescription drugs that impaired his ability to drive and caused a car accident. As a result, the jurors may find that the driver breached the duty of care by acting without ordinary care.
Is the Defendant Negligent if They Breach the Duty of Care?
Possibly. There are two more legal requirements to prove negligence – causation and damages.
Proving causation requires that you have evidence showing that the defendant’s breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries. In other words, you would not have been injured had it not been for the defendant’s conduct. Furthermore, you sustained damages because of the breach of duty.
The victim has the burden of proof in a negligence case. If you cannot prove causation and damages, you cannot recover compensation from the other party, even if they breached the duty of care and caused your injury.
Therefore, evidence is a crucial element of every personal injury case. Our legal team at the Hollander Law Firm performs a comprehensive claim investigation to gather evidence proving causation, fault, and liability.
Evidence might include:
- Copies of accident or police reports
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Medical records
- Physical evidence from the accident scene or cars
- Statements, opinions, and research from expert witnesses
- Videos of the accident from traffic cameras or surveillance cameras
There could be much more evidence related to the specific facts of the case. We continue to investigate and search for evidence until we are satisfied that we have the evidence we need to prove negligence and liability.
Call Now for a Free Consultation with an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer
When another party causes you injury, take steps to protect your legal right to fair compensation of damages. Our Fort Lauderdale accident lawyers at the Hollander Law Firm pursue all causes of action to get you the maximum compensation available for your injury claim.
Call our law office today to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys in Fort Lauderdale, FL.