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What Is Duty of Care in a Personal Injury Case?

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.

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