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What is Duty of Care?

What is a duty of care? What does it mean? What is its significance?
A duty of care is a legal obligation that is imposed on an individual that requires the individual to adhere to a standard of reasonable care in the performance of any act that could foreseeably harm anyone else. A duty of care is a requirement that a person act toward others and the public with caution, watchfulness, prudence and attention that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would.

If a person's actions do not meet this standard of care, then those actions are regarded as being negligent. Any damages that result from not meeting this standard can then be claimed in a personal injury lawsuit for negligence.

Proving Duty of Care responsibility

In fact, in order to pursue a personal injury lawsuit for negligence, the first thing that has to be established is that that the defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff. Obviously, the next thing that has to be established is that the defendant breached their duty of care to the plaintiff.

In showing that the defendant breached a duty of care, the defendant's actions are tested against the standard of a reasonable person's actions in the same circumstances. Once the appropriate standard has been determined, a breach of a duty of care is proven when the defendant's conduct falls below or does not reach the standard of reasonable care.

However, the standard of a reasonable person can vary depending on the facts of the case. For instance, a doctor would be held to reasonable standards when compared to other doctors, rather than the reasonable standards for the general public, when it comes in regard to actions for medical malpractice.

Different types of Duty of Care

A duty of care is something that many different professions have. For example:

  • A doctor has a duty of care to patients, family members of patients, patients in waiting room, other professionals and the community (patient with infectious disease).
  • A child care worker has a duty of care to children, family members of the children, fellow staff and other professionals.
  • A social worker has a duty of care to client, family members of the client, other clients, staff, other professionals and the community A driver has a duty of care to other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.
  • An employer has a duty of care to employees, other employers, the general public and the community.

Understanding duty of care

The simplest and easiest way to understand a duty of care is in the context of someone inflicting a blunt trauma on another individual. However, it is also important to understand that a duty of care exists in situations where a plaintiff and a defendant may be separated by large distances of space and time.

For example, a construction company or engineer that is involved in the construction and erection of a building has a duty of care to tenants who live in that building years later in the future. This is true even though the construction company or engineer may be located far away from the building.

If you have been the victim of someone's breach of their duty of care towards you, it would be a good idea to contact a personal injury attorney and let him or her evaluate your case.