In law, the term “breach” holds significant weight. It signifies the violation of a legal responsibility or duty. This breach can manifest in various forms, from a breach of contract in business dealings to its critical role in personal injury law.
We will focus on the latter and delve into how a breach of duty occurs in negligence cases and its relevance in strict liability cases.
How Does a Breach of Duty Occur in a Negligence Case?
Negligence claims are among the most common ways to seek compensation following an accident, such as slip and falls, medical malpractice, or car accidents. These claims are built on four primary elements:
- Duty of Care: The defendant owes the plaintiff (injury victim) a duty of care.
- Breach of Duty: The defendant breaches their duty of care.
- Causation: The breach directly causes harm to the plaintiff.
- Damages: The harm results in measurable damages.
To prevail in a negligence case, an injury victim must establish all four elements. It’s important to note that the victim’s level of fault can also impact the compensation they receive.
What Is a Duty of Care?
A duty of care is a legal promise to keep others safe and take actions to prevent harm to others. Specific legal duties can arise from laws, common law rules, or being in a certain type of relationship, such as an employer-employee or property owner-guest relationship.
For instance, when driving on a public road in Galveston, Texas, you owe a duty of care to fellow drivers to operate your vehicle safely. The other drivers have this same duty to you. This duty encompasses driving carefully and sticking to all traffic laws binding on all drivers.
Similarly, medical providers must provide their patients with the proper standard of care. If a medical practitioner deviates from this standard, it constitutes a breach of duty, often called medical malpractice.
Property owners, whether businesses or individuals, also must maintain safe premises for guests. This obligation extends to both public and private property owners. If a property owner neglects dangerous conditions, it constitutes a breach of duty.
When Constitutes a Breach in a Negligence Case?
In a negligence case, whether someone has breached a duty is determined using a “reasonable person” rule.
This standard measures breach when someone fails to act like a sensible, everyday person would act. It is generally expected by society and the courts that a reasonable person exercises common sense. This includes being prudent to avoid causing harm to others. A jury will determine whether the accused’s conduct is something a reasonable person would or would not do.
For instance, a driver goes through a red traffic light and causes a crash. The jury would probably say that this driver didn’t follow the rules that sensible people follow when driving. They’d agree that running a red light is risky and can hurt others, so it’s not something a reasonable person should do.
But remember, this “reasonable person” idea isn’t just about traffic. It’s used in all kinds of situations. If someone should have been more careful, like a doctor who didn’t do their job right, the jury would look at it the same way. They’d ask, “Did this doctor act like an ordinary, careful doctor would?” Certain professionals are held to a higher standard of care during the course of their work.
So, in many situations, the “reasonable person” standard helps the jury decide if someone messed up and broke their duty to be careful and safe.
How Does Strict Liability Impact a Breach of Duty Case?
In some legal situations, proving negligence might not be necessary to seek compensation. This is where strict liability laws come into play and serve as a safeguard for public health, safety, and welfare.
These laws don’t require victims to show that someone was careless or made a mistake; instead, they focus on whether someone engaged in certain prohibited actions that caused harm.
Strict liability cases cover a range of circumstances, and they can significantly affect how a breach of duty case unfolds. Three primary types of strict liability cases exist: abnormally dangerous activities, product liability, and wild or dangerous animals.
Abnormally Dangerous Activities
Some activities are considered abnormally dangerous because they carry an inherent and foreseeable risk of causing serious harm. Even if people take precautions, these activities remain highly risky.
For example, dealing with nuclear waste, handling explosives, and engaging in other extremely hazardous tasks fall into this category. The responsible party can be held strictly liable when harm results from such activities.
Manufacturers and distributors are responsible for assuring their products are safe for consumers. If a company manufactures a product with defects or lacks proper warnings, which leads to consumer injuries, strict liability can come into play.
It’s not just the original manufacturer who can be held strictly liable; even merchants who sell the product down the line in the marketplace can face legal consequences.
Dangerous and Wild Animals
All owners of animals, whether domestic or wild, have a duty to protect the public from potential harm caused by their animals. If an owner knows that their animal tends to act dangerously and someone gets hurt, strict liability can be invoked. This also applies to individuals who take care of our wild animals.
Understanding the Limited Scope of Strict Liability Claims
It’s important to note that strict liability claims are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They are applicable only in specific situations where the law deems them necessary to protect the public interest, health, and safety. These laws are designed to ensure that those engaged in inherently risky activities or those responsible for products or animals that can cause significant harm are held accountable for their actions.
If you believe you have a case that falls under strict liability, it’s advisable to seek legal guidance from a personal injury lawyer specializing in such matters. They can help you understand the complexities of your claim, gather the necessary evidence, and navigate the legal process. So, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced attorney to assess your situation and guide you through the legal steps ahead.
Defenses to Allegations of Negligence
In personal injury cases, defendants often employ various defenses to counter allegations of negligence and avoid liability. Understanding these defenses is essential, as they can seriously impact the case results. Here are some common defenses to challenge negligence claims:
Assumption of Risk
Defendants may argue that the plaintiff willingly participated in a risky activity or knew about the potential danger and accepted it. This can reduce or eradicate the defendant’s liability.
The defendant may claim comparative negligence if the plaintiff’s conduct contributed to the injury. In some jurisdictions, this can reduce the plaintiff’s compensation based on their degree of fault.
Lack of Proximate Cause
Defendants may assert that their actions were not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, meaning an intervening event or negligence by another party was the primary cause.
Statute of Limitations
Defendants may argue that the plaintiff filed the lawsuit claims too late and failed to meet the statute of limitations expired, barring the claim.
No Duty of Care
In some cases, defendants may contend that they did not owe a duty of care to those bringing the personal injury claim, which is a fundamental element in establishing a breach of duty.
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of these defenses varies depending on the specifics of each case and the jurisdiction’s laws.
Consult With an Experienced Galveston Personal Injury Lawyer
You may be entitled to compensation if you’ve been injured in an accident and suspect someone breached their duty. The Galveston personal injury attorneys at The Law Firm of Alton C. Todd are experienced in handling personal injury cases and can help you build a strong case.
We can conduct investigations, gather critical evidence, and identify all parties at fault. Contact us today, you can call (409)-207-9299 for a free consultation to discuss your legal options. Your path to justice starts here.