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What Is Breach of the Duty of Care?

Posted On 11/29/19

If you bring a personal injury accident in Arizona, you will likely hear the phrase ‘breach of duty of care’. This is the basis for most personal injury accident claims. Even before you bring an injury claim, understanding breach of the duty of care could help you determine whether you have grounds for a negligence lawsuit after suffering a serious injury. Understanding what this phrase means and how it could affect your case may take help from a personal injury attorney.

What Is Duty of Care?

Breach of the duty of care has two parts: the breach and the duty. Duties of care refer to legal obligations. Different parties may owe others duties of care depending on the circumstances. For example, a doctor will owe strict duties of care to patients according to medical industry standards. Drivers owe a duty to other roadway users to reasonably prevent accidents. Daycare centers owe duties to parents to keep their premises safe for children. If the law imposes obligations on an individual or entity that require the exercise of reasonable care, that party has a duty of care.

Establishing a duty of care in a personal injury claim takes assessing the accident. An analysis of events leading up to the injury could identify one or more parties that owed the victim duties of care. These parties in injury lawsuits often include drivers, product manufacturers, property owners, businesses, employers, physicians and hospitals. The specific duties of care the party owed the victim will depend on the relationship between the two parties and the circumstances of the accident.

What Is a Breach?

Another word for breach of the duty of care is negligence. If someone negligently, carelessly or irresponsibly breached his or her duties of care to another party, and this caused injury to the latter, the former could be responsible for damages. A breach of duty could also be intentional, such as committing a crime. Everyone owes a legal duty of care to act reasonably to avoid harming other people. Certain parties, however, have duties of care that go beyond the norm. Breaches of these duties can take many forms.

  • A driver getting behind the wheel intoxicated.
  • A surgeon failing to adequately prepare for surgery.
  • A pet owner knowingly letting a vicious dog run at large.
  • A doctor negligently misdiagnosing a patient’s condition.
  • A property owner ignoring an obvious trip and fall hazard.
  • An employer failing to properly train its employees.
  • A truck company failing to maintain its fleet.

Finding out whether someone owed you a duty of care, and whether that person breached this duty, may take an investigation. An accident attorney can review the circumstances of your case, identify the legal obligations one or more parties may have owed you, and help you find any available proof of a breach of these duties. Then, the lawyer can help you prove the other two necessary elements for a personal injury lawsuit.

Causation and Damages

Once your attorney establishes duty of care and breach of duty, he or she has two remaining elements to prove: causation and damages. Causation asserts that were it not for the defendant’s breach of duty of care, your injuries would not have happened. The defendant’s actions or negligent failure to act must have caused or substantially contributed to your accident. Without causation, you will be unable to hold the defendant liable for your injuries. Even with proof of a breach of the duty of care, you must prove causation.

Finally, your lawyer will need to prove damages suffered. The defendant’s breach of duty must have led to specific and compensable damages to you or a family member. Compensable damages in the State of Arizona include medical costs, pain and suffering, physical injuries, disabilities, disfigurement, lost quality of life, mental trauma, emotional distress, lost wages, property damages, and wrongful death. Contact an attorney near you to find out if you have a claim against someone for a breach of the duty of care.