The term “duty of care” is something you may hear if you or somebody you care about has been injured due to the careless or negligent actions of another person. If this is the case, it may be necessary for you to file a personal injury lawsuit against the alleged negligent party to recover compensation. However, there are various factors that need to be proven in order for a personal injury lawsuit to be successful. One of these factors is whether or not the alleged negligent party owed a duty of care to the injury victim. Here, we want to explore what duty of care means.

Defining Duty of Care Can be Difficult

Defining duty of care, with regards to tort law, seems like it should be simple. In its most basic form, a “duty of care” is the requirement that a person act toward others and the general public with the caution, attention, and watchfulness that a reasonable person would use under similar circumstances. However, when examining the particular duty of care that a defendant owed a plaintiff in a personal injury case, the waters become muddied. That is because the “duty of care” in these cases is going to depend heavily on other factors related to the incident. For example, the “duty of care” owed by a driver on the roadway to others around them is not going to be the same “duty of care” that a doctor owes to their patient.

What Happens if Duty of Care is Breached?

If a person has indeed breached the duty of care that they owe to another person, this could result in the other person becoming seriously injured. A breach of duty often leads to severe accidents. A medical professional is expected to act with reasonable care and a good faith effort to protect their patients.

  • If a driver is impaired on the roadway, this is a breach of the duty that they owe to others around them. This breach of duty could lead to a severe collision.
  • If a doctor fails to obtain a full patient medical history or prescribes a patient two medications that contraindicate one another, this is likely a breach of duty, and either of these mistakes could lead to severe patient harm.

Establishing a duty of care is the first step in determining negligence and legal obligations in a personal injury or medical malpractice case. The second step is determining whether or not that duty of care was breached. The third step in a personal injury case is showing that the breach of duty actually caused a person harm. Yes, it could be the case that a breach of duty occurred but did not cause harm to somebody else. For example, while an impaired driver may have breached their duty to others around them, they will not have caused harm to anybody else unless that breach of duty results in a collision. If it is determined that a breach of duty caused harm to another individual, then the person who owed the duty of care could be held liable for the injuries.

Speak to an Attorney

If you or somebody you care about has been harmed due to the careless or negligent actions of another person, contact an attorney at Heenan & Cook, PLLC for help with your case today. Our Montana personal injury attorneys have the resources and experience necessary to conduct a full investigation into your case. You can contact us for a free consultation for your case, or feel free to call us at (406) 839-9091.