What is a Duty of Care in a Personal Injury Case?

Personal Injury • May 26, 2023

Accidents happen, but sometimes they can be prevented if people take reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others. In legal terms, this is known as a “duty of care,” and it plays a crucial role in Jersey City personal injury cases.

Examples of Duty of Care

As a member of society, you are responsible for behaving in a way that doesn’t cause harm to others around you. This is commonly referred to as the duty of care. For example:

  1. As a pedestrian, you are expected to use crosswalks and obey traffic signals to avoid causing accidents. 
  2. Property owners have a duty to maintain a safe environment for visitors, addressing hazards like wet floors or broken stairs.
  3. As a driver, you have a duty of care to operate your vehicle safely and responsibly. This includes obeying traffic laws, staying within speed limits, and maintaining proper control over your car. 
  4. Medical and legal professionals must provide services that meet an appropriate standard; otherwise, they can be held liable for malpractice because they breached their duty of care.

You Must Prove Negligence To Be Successful in a Personal Injury Claim

Negligence is a breach of duty of care that someone owes to another person, leading to that person’s injury. In a personal injury case, the injured party can bring a civil lawsuit against the person responsible for their injuries claiming negligence.

To be successful in a negligence case, the plaintiff must demonstrate four elements:

  1. Duty of care: The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to act with reasonable care.
  2. Breach of duty: The defendant breached the duty of care by acting negligently or failing to act as a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. 
  3. Causation: The plaintiff’s injury resulted from the defendant’s conduct. 
  4. Damages: The plaintiff incurred actual harm or loss due to the defendant’s negligence.

Damages That Can Be Recovered 

When a person fails to uphold their duty of care, and someone is injured or harmed as a result, the injured party has the right to seek compensation for their damages, including the following: 

Medical Expenses

This includes costs for emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation, and other treatments.

Lost Wages

An injured person may be unable to work due to their injuries, resulting in lost wages. The party responsible for the breach of duty of care may be required to compensate the injured person for this financial loss. 

Pain and Suffering

Aside from physical injuries, a breach of duty of care can also result in emotional distress, which the victim can be compensated for.

Loss of Consortium

If a personal injury disrupts the injured person’s relationship with their spouse or family, the party responsible for the breach of duty of care may be required to compensate the injured person for the loss of companionship and support.

Punitive Damages

In some extreme cases, punitive damages might be awarded to the victim. Punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer and discourage them from repeating their harmful behavior in the future. 

“To support an award of punitive damages…plaintiff has proved, by clear and convincing evidence, that the injury, loss, or harm suffered by (plaintiff) was the result of (defendant’s) acts or omissions and that either 

(1) (defendant’s) conduct was malicious or 

(2) (defendant) acted in wanton and willful disregard of (plaintiff’s) rights. 

Malicious conduct is intentional wrongdoing in the sense of an evil-minded act. Willful or wanton conduct is a deliberate act or omission with knowledge of a high degree of probability of harm to another who foreseeably might be harmed by that act or omission and reckless indifference to the consequence of the act or omission.”

A duty of care is essential to any personal injury case, and understanding how it applies to your situation can be crucial in protecting your rights and upholding your responsibilities. If you’ve been injured due to another person’s negligence, let us help you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.