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Breach of Duty

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Breach of Duty

Breach of duty is one of the four legal elements of negligence.

Negligence is a legal basis for holding parties liable for damages caused by an accident or injury.

Before proving breach of duty, you must establish that a person owed you a duty of care.

How Does Duty of Care Relate to Breach of Duty?

How Does Duty of Care Relate to Breach of Duty?

A duty may be created by a legal relationship, personal commitment, custom, or sense of morality. The relationship between the parties establishes a duty to act with a certain level of care. The duty depends on the relationship between the parties.

For example, a doctor-patient relationship creates a duty of care for the doctor. The doctor has a duty to provide medical services that meet or exceed the acceptable standard of care for a specific situation. Another example is the duty of care for drivers. All drivers have a duty to avoid actions that could cause a car accident. 

Generally, everyone has a duty to act with reasonable care to avoid causing another person to sustain injuries or harm. 

Duty is the first of the four elements of negligence:

  • Duty
  • Breach of duty
  • Causation
  • Damages

Once you prove that the other party owed you a duty of care, you must prove they breached the duty of care to recover damages. Proving a breach of duty often relies upon establishing the “reasonable person” standard.

Proving Breach of Duty in a Los Angeles Personal Injury Case

Jurors decide what standard to use to judge a defendant’s actions based on the “reasonable person” standard. The “reasonable person” is not a real person. Instead, the jurors decide what they believe a person of ordinary prudence and care would have done given the facts of the case. The standard will change based on the facts of the specific case.

The jurors compare the defendant’s conduct to the “reasonable person” standard. If the defendant’s conduct fell short of the reasonableness standard, the jury may find that the defendant breached their duty of care.

Provided the plaintiff can prove that the breach of duty directly led to their injury and they sustained damages because of the breach of duty, the jury may find the defendant liable for the plaintiff’s damages.

What Types of Damages Are Available in a Personal Injury Case? 

Damages in a personal injury case may include economic and non-economic damages, such as:

  • The cost of medical treatment, nursing care, and personal care
  • The loss of income, including benefits, lost wages, and reductions in future earning potential
  • Diminished quality of life and loss of enjoyment of life
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Disabilities, impairments, scarring, and disfigurement
  • Suffering from emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Out-of-pocket expenses and costs

Punitive (exemplary) damages may also be awarded in limited circumstances where the defendant’s conduct is malicious. These damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. 

What Types of Personal Injury Cases Fall Under Strict Liability in California?

While negligence is the most common legal ground for personal injury cases, some claims are based on strict liability. A plaintiff does not need to prove intention or breach of duty to recover compensation for damages in strict liability cases. Rather, the plaintiff must only show that the defendant engaged in certain prohibited conduct. 

Strict liability may apply in several types of injury cases. The three most common types of strict liability claims are:

Dog Bites and Wild Animal Attacks

California is a strict liability state for dog bites. California’s dog bite laws hold dog owners liable for damages caused by their dogs, even if the dog owner did nothing wrong. There are a few exceptions to strict liability for dog bites, such as trespassing and intentionally provoking a dog, but the exceptions are very limited and narrow.

Strict liability also applies in most cases involving injuries caused by wild or exotic animals. So even though a person may take reasonable precautions, they might still be held strictly liable if an exotic pet injures someone.

Product Liability Claims 

Some defective product claims are based on strict liability. A manufacturer can be held strictly liable if a defective product injures someone. The injured party would only need to prove that the product was defective and caused their injury. 

Abnormally Dangerous Activities 

The breach of duty requirement usually doesn’t apply in cases involving abnormally dangerous activities. An abnormally dangerous activity is an activity that is so dangerous it poses a severe threat to the public even though the party takes special care to prevent injuries or damages.

Examples of abnormally dangerous activities may include:

  • Blasting and demolition activities
  • Using, transporting, and storing explosives
  • Disposing of hazardous waste and toxic chemicals
  • Digging trenches and canals
  • Fumigating, crop dusting, and other mass use of poisons 

Claims involving abnormally dangerous activities are complicated personal injury cases. Therefore, personal injury attorneys may include more than one cause of action, such as strict liability, negligence, and vicarious liability.

Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer For Help With Your Personal Injury Case 

If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for help. An attorney will be able to establish the elements of negligence, including a breach of duty, and maximize your recovery. An attorney will also include all causes of action that may apply, including strict liability.