Duty is a key concept in any personal injury claim alleging negligent acts or omissions of another person or entity.
What is Duty?
Duty is the legal obligation that one person owes to another to act as a reasonable person would and avoid unreasonable risk of harm. The general rule regarding duty is that whenever someone’s conduct creates a foreseeable or probable risk of injury or damage, a duty of care arises to take reasonable precautions to prevent that injury or damage.
A duty is established when the law recognizes a relationship between the plaintiff (the person who was injured) and the defendant (the person whose careless behavior resulted in the injury). Because of this relationship, the defendant is required to act with reasonable care, which means a degree of caution and concern for his safety as well as the safety of others that an ordinary, rational person would use in a similar situation.
In some situations, duty may be difficult to establish because there are no laws that spell out exactly how another person should act.
Breach of Duty
Once it has been established that the defendant owed a duty of reasonable care to the plaintiff, he is liable for negligence when he breaches that duty by not exercising reasonable care. Rule of thumb: the greater the danger, the greater the caution required.
If your personal injury case is based upon the negligence of another party, and most are, you must be able to establish that a duty existed and the responsible party breached that duty, resulting in your injury.