In the legal landscape, “breach of duty” is a critical concept often linked to negligence. A breach of duty occurs when one party fails to uphold a standard of care owed to another, resulting in harm or damage.
This element is crucial in civil cases where the plaintiff alleges that the defendant acted negligently.
What Is a “Duty of Care”?
Duty of care is a rule that says you have to be careful not to hurt anyone.
It’s like an invisible guideline that tells people, “Hey, don’t be careless!”
Examples of a duty of care include the following:
- Doctors have a rule that says they must take good care of their patients.
- If you own a store or a building, you have to keep it safe. That includes cleaning up spills and fixing broken steps.
- People who make toys or cars need to make sure those things are safe to use.
- If you’re driving, you must follow the rules of the road. That means stopping at red lights, not speeding, or texting while you’re driving.
When Does Someone Breach the Duty of Care?
If someone doesn’t fulfill their duty of care, they’ve made a “breach of duty.” The plaintiff has to show that the defendant didn’t act the way a reasonable person would have acted.
If a delivery driver is racing to make a delivery, runs a stop sign, and hits a pedestrian, the driver probably broke their duty to drive safely.
What about a shop owner who knows a wobbly step is at the entrance but does nothing about it? If someone trips and falls, the owner likely broke their duty to keep the shop safe.
What Kind of Harm Matters?
Just saying someone broke a rule isn’t enough. You have to show that you were actually hurt because of the breach of duty. You must show that you have damages that resulted from the breach of duty. This could be property damage, medical bills accumulating after catastrophic injuries or wages you lost because you couldn’t work. You could also be compensated for your pain and suffering.
Defenses Against Breach of Duty
Common defenses used to show that there was not a breach of duty by the defendant include:
- No Duty Owed: A defendant can argue that there was not a rule or duty to follow. For example, if you’re just walking down the street and someone trips next to you, you don’t have a duty to prevent their fall.
- I Did My Best: A defendant can say they acted carefully, given the situation. Maybe you’re a doctor who followed all the right steps but still couldn’t save a patient. That could mean that you didn’t breach your duty.
- It Wasn’t My Fault: Sometimes, a defendant can argue that something else caused the harm, not them. For example, if someone slips in a store and falls, it may be because they were running, not because the floor was wet.
- You Helped Cause It: Comparative fault allows the defendant to shift the blame if the person who got hurt contributed to their own harm. For example, if someone gets hurt using a machine the wrong way, even after reading the warning label, they might share some of the blame.
Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney if There’s Been a Breach of Duty
If someone breaches a duty owed and someone else gets hurt, there could be a lawsuit. Both sides will try to prove their point, and the court will decide who’s right based on the evidence. Understanding this can make a big difference, whether you’re the one who got hurt or the one being accused. You’ll be better prepared for any personal injury situation that might come up.
Lawsuits are never fun, but understanding your duties and rights can help you navigate through them. Breach of duty cases can get really complicated. If you think you’ve been hurt because someone breached a duty owed to you, contact a personal injury lawyer. An experienced Personal Injury Lawyers in McAllen at The Law Office of Lino H. Ochoa can help you understand your rights and what steps to take next in building a strong case. Call us today at (956) 815-0055.