Discussions of “duty of care” revolve almost exclusively around personal injury. The most common issue examined in these cases is whether a duty of care was owed by one person to another.
A breach of a duty of care is synonymous with negligence. For this reason, cases examining duty of care are essentially cases examining whether a person was negligent.
In California, the ‘duty of care‘ is a fundamental legal concept that imposes a legal obligation on individuals and entities to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm or injury to others. Specifically, it refers to the duty of individuals and organizations to act in a manner that avoids causing harm to others. This duty encompasses a wide range of situations, from everyday activities to professional responsibilities.
To succeed in a California personal injury case, you need to establish several key elements:
- Existence of Duty: You must demonstrate that the defendant owed you a specific duty of care. This duty can vary depending on the circumstances, such as the duty of a driver to operate a vehicle safely or a healthcare professional to provide appropriate care.
- Breach of Duty: You must show that the defendant breached their duty of care. This means they failed to act as a reasonably prudent person or professional would under similar circumstances.
- Causation: You must establish a direct link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the injuries you suffered. In other words, you were injured as a direct result of the defendant’s actions or negligence.
- Damages: Finally, you must prove that you suffered actual damages as a result of the breach of duty. These damages can include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.
Understanding the ‘duty of care’ in California is crucial when pursuing a personal injury claim, as it forms the foundation of your case. By demonstrating that someone owed you a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused you harm, you can seek compensation for your injuries and losses.
Duty of Care as Public Policy
The State of California set into statutes what is ordinarily a creature of court decisions. California Civil Code §1714(a) set out a “duty of care” that all persons owe to each other, save clear exceptions.
In relevant part, California Civil Code §1714(a) states, “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person . . . .”
To break this statute into pieces, a person is negligent in when they:
- Owe a duty of care to another,
- Breaches their duty to the other, and
- Injure the other as a result.
It is hard to pin down the concept of breaching a duty of care, but the California Supreme Court elegantly phrased it whether a person acted as a reasonable person would “in view of the probability of injury to others.”
In this simple statement, we can understand the spirit of what Civil Code §1714 is trying to achieve.
What Are Examples of Duty of Care?
To understand when a person might have a duty of care to another, consider the following examples:
- A property owner has a duty of care to keep their premises in a safe condition for visitors;
- Motor vehicle drivers have a duty of care to obey traffic laws;
- A parent has a duty of care to a child;
- A doctor has a duty of care to patient; and
- A business owner has a duty of care to a patron.
In these examples, we see the common-sense obligations that we owe to our fellow citizens when we act or operate in a certain societal role.
Under California law, individuals are obligated to exercise ‘ordinary care or skill‘ in managing their property and personal affairs. However, certain individuals owe a distinct ‘special duty of care‘ to others due to their specific relationships. For example, teachers have a special duty of care toward their students, and doctors have a similar obligation to their patients.
What Are Factors that Determine Duty of Care?
In examining cases where there is an alleged breach of a duty of care, California courts examine several factors. While this list is not exhaustive, it can give a flavor of what courts weigh:
- The closeness of connection between one person’s conduct and another’s injury,
- The foreseeability of harm,
- The policy of preventing future harm, and
- Moral blame for the action of the person causing the harm.
The above selected examples demonstrate that the courts weigh many factors. It also demonstrates that courts are very wary of expanding or narrowing the scope of the duty of care unless a clear case to do so is presented.
Wells Call Injury Lawyers Can Evaluate Duty of Care
At this point, you have a good idea of how California evaluates duty of care and some of the many factors that contribute to the analysis.
At Wells Call Injury Lawyers, we thoroughly examine each case and work to protect your rights and collect the money that you are owed for your injuries. In fact, we’ve recovered over $500 million on behalf of injured clients.
Contact us online or call (707) 243-8595 today for a free consultation.