Have you been injured in an accident? Could your accident have been avoided had another party not been careless? We all generally owe it to each other to behave in a way that is not going to cause harm to another person. There are consequences for carelessness. Just because someone doesn’t intend to cause harm doesn’t mean they can’t be held accountable.
Under the law, people can be held financially responsible for injuries if they fail to act in a reasonably careful way. Negligence is the legal basis for seeking damages in a personal injury lawsuit when someone is hurt in an accident caused by carelessness.
Negligence consists of four elements. This overview will focus primarily on one of the most important elements: breach of duty.
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What Are the Four Elements of Negligence?
To prove negligence, you have to show that:
- Someone owed you a duty of care
- Their action or inaction resulted in a breach of duty
- Their conduct caused your injuries
- You suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant’s conduct
To win a negligence case, you must prove each of these elements.
What Is Breach of Duty?
Breach of duty is when someone fails to act reasonably under the circumstances. To fully understand breach of duty, you must first understand the meaning of “duty of care” in the context of a personal injury case.
What is the Duty of Care?
A duty of care is the responsibility of an individual to behave in a way that any other reasonable person would behave in similar circumstances. If you think that sounds vague, you’re right.
You first must prove that the person owed you a duty of care in the first place. The duty of care may vary depending on the circumstances. What might be considered reasonable in one situation might not be reasonable in another.
What’s more, the duty of care can be affected by the relationship between the parties. In some instances, it is relatively easy to show that a negligent party owed you a duty of care. For example, in a medical malpractice case, it is generally assumed that doctors have a duty of care to their patients.
In fact, physicians are held to higher standards than those without medical training.
Although there is no universal law stating precisely the duty health care providers have to their patients, it is generally held that doctors and other medical professionals are expected to provide their patients with quality care that is consistent with the care others in their field would provide.
Proving Duty of Care
Proving that someone had a duty of care to you can sometimes be difficult.
Consider the example of a product liability case. The designers and manufacturers of any product absolutely do have a duty to ensure their products are not defective or unreasonably dangerous.
If there are risks associated with using a product, they need to let customers know of said risks.
That is where the issue can become complicated. Maybe you were injured because you fell when a ladder failed. It might have failed because it required more maintenance than you expected.
Technically, you’re the one who didn’t maintain the ladder in a manner that would prevent it from failing. Did this particular ladder require more or different maintenance than other ladders? Whether the ladder’s designers or manufacturers had a duty to provide detailed maintenance instructions can be difficult to determine.
This isn’t meant to discourage you from seeking compensation in an instance when proving someone had a duty of care to you is challenging. It’s meant to highlight the importance of preparing thoroughly when filing claims or lawsuits in these circumstances.
It’s always best to consult a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer. Many offer free consultations, so there’s no risk to you to find out more about your legal options.
What Are Examples of Breach of Duty?
Proving someone had a duty of care to you is just the first step in the process of proving negligence. The next step involves proving that they breached their duty.
Here are some examples where the duty of care has been breached:
- You slip on a wet floor at the supermarket. The store owes you a duty to keep the premises safe for customers. They breached that duty by:
- Failing to promptly clean up the spill and/or
- Putting up a “wet floor” sign by the time your accident occurred.
- You were prescribed a new medication but your doctor failed to account for drug interaction. The doctor may have breached their duty of care by failing to check if you were on a medication that could negatively interact with the one they prescribed. Or, they should have known that the new one they were prescribing would interact poorly with the other medication.
- You were injured in a truck accident. Perhaps this occurred because a truck’s brakes failed. In this instance, the breach of duty could fall on the party responsible for maintaining the brakes. Or, perhaps the brake manufacturer breached its duty of care by making defective brakes.
These examples illustrate just a few examples of possible ways the duty of care could be breached. Every case is unique, and not every case of a wet floor results in liability.
An Attorney Can Help You Prove Breach of Duty
Proving breach of duty can sometimes be a challenge. You often need to thoroughly investigate your case to show that breach of duty has occurred.
This is much easier to do with the help of an attorney. If you’re planning to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit in Pennsylvania, strongly consider reviewing your case with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. They can leverage the resources of their law firm to help you build a stronger case.