What care do we owe to one another from a legal perspective?
Duty of care in a personal injury case is a legal term that arises when holding someone else accountable. Did the person, whose actions resulted in another person’s harm, owe the other person a duty of care7
What is duty of care?
The New York Bar Association explains that the law imposes a responsibility on persons and companies. It requires them to refrain from acting in a way that would cause foreseeable injury to someone.
Motorists owe other motorists a duty of care, which involves obeying traffic laws and keeping a proper lookout upon the roadway. Courts expect people to take “reasonable care” to avoid injuring someone else. Depending on the situation, the duty of care might differ.
For example, when a shopper enters an area of a store marked “Employees Only,” the store no longer owes them a duty of care. If they slip on a wet floor and suffer injury after entering an area designated for employees, the store may not be liable.
However, if a shopper is buying groceries and steps on a broken tile in a customer area, the store owes the shopper a duty of care. The store must ensure the floors are safe, if they knew or should have known about the broken tile in the exercise of due care, but failed to put up a sign to warn shoppers or repair it in a timely manner.
Four levels of duty of care apply in personal injury law
- Conduct that may harm someone without the intention to do so. If the risk of injury is foreseeable, you must refrain from the conduct. An example would be a storeowner who fails to repair a rickety stairway while knowing it poses a risk for customers. Generally, insurance coverage would be available to the person injured by another person’s negligence if that other person maintains a liability insurance policy.
- Duty to refrain from intentional Intentionally harming another person without legal justification is against the law. An example would be punching someone else in the face and breaking their nose. Unless it was in self-defense, or to protect someone else, there would be no legal justification for it.
- Emergency vehicles with flashing lights and sirens often speed through intersections to reach injured people. When doing so, they try to be careful not to put other people in danger. However, if a motorist disregards the siren and the emergency vehicle hits them, courts may decide the EMTs are not liable. In fact, the court may hold the motorist liable due to ignoring traffic laws to pull over when an emergency vehicle approaches.
- Strict Strict liability may apply to product defects that harm people. Courts can hold the manufacturer accountable as long as the customer used the product as intended. Examples are products that catch on fire when the user is following instructions.
Do you suspect someone else ignored their duty of care in a personal injury case? Sackstein, Sackstein & Lee, LLP provides a free consultation to review your accident and determine whether grounds exist for a lawsuit. Call us:516-248-2234 and 718-539-3100 or reach out to us through our contact form.