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Important Elements Required in Personal Injury Claims: “Breach in Duty” Overview

Personal injury lawsuits, or tort claims, are cases brought forth by a people who have been harmed by another either through a willful act or negligence. In a personal injury lawsuit, the injured party, or plaintiff, can seek monetary compensation by demonstrating that the accused party, or defendant, was responsible for his or her damages.

Personal injury lawsuits are a multifaceted legal process where proving negligence is a central component of a successful case. The elements needed to prove negligence are:

  1. Duty of Care
  2. Breach in Duty
  3. Proximate Cause
  4. Injuries and Damages

A failure to establish all elements of negligence will result in an unfavorable verdict. To better understand what is required to prove a breach in duty, it is important to first understand what a duty of care is.

Establishing the Defendant’s Duty of Care

The success of a personal injury case will depend on whether the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In personal injury cases, a duty of care can arise when there is a relationship between the parties involved in the case. In these cases, the plaintiff would have reason to expect a certain standard of care from the defendant. A common example of this involves medical malpractice, where the plaintiff, as the patient, had reason to expect a basic standard of care from the defendant, being the licensed healthcare professional.

A relationship between the parties is not always necessary. Based on California’s Civil Code §1714(a), every person has a responsibility for the consequences of his or her willful acts, including injuries committed to others. State law makes it clear that when a person has failed to use ordinary care, which resulted in the injury of another, the person can be held accountable for the injuries caused. Accordingly, this statute allows for the assumption that people owe an ordinary duty of care to others. If injuries are caused by the failure to use ordinary care, then the offender can be held responsible.

When a personal injury case goes to trial, the judge will make a determination on whether a duty of care existed using the following factors set forth by Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal 2d. 108, 113 (1968):

  1. The defendant’s degree of moral fault;
  2. The policy of preventing future injury;
  3. The degree of burden to the defendant;
  4. The cost, availability, and commonness of insurance for the risk involved;
  5. Whether the injury to the plaintiff was foreseeable;
  6. Whether there is a degree of certainty that an injury was caused;
  7. Whether there is a correlation between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s damages; and
  8. Whether there will be any consequences made to the community by imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting responsibility for a breach.

The following are common examples of a duty of care in a personal injury case: In California, all drivers have a responsibility to drive safely and obey traffic laws to avoid the potential of a traffic accident. When a person is treated by a medical healthcare worker, he or she can expect a reasonable sense of care from the licensed professional. Medical professionals have a duty to use reasonable knowledge, skill, and care when treating and diagnosing patients. In California, property owners have a duty to use reasonable care and maintain their premises in a safe condition. They must use reasonable care to discover potentially unsafe conditions and replace, repair, or properly warn others of the possibility of danger. Manufacturing companies must use reasonable care to avoid assembling or producing a harmful product.

How to Determine a Breach in Duty Has Occurred

In a successful personal injury claim, it is not enough to prove that a duty of care was owed. Instead, once the judge has determined that a duty of care was owed, the judge or jury will need to carefully evaluate the facts in the case to determine whether a breach in duty has actually occurred. It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to demonstrate that the defendant failed to act in accordance with the standard of care.

A breach in duty can occur in two different forms:

  1. The defendant has acted in a manner that a reasonable person in a similar circumstance would not have done; and
  2. The defendant failed to take action when a reasonable person in a similar circumstance would have done.

Common examples of a breach in duty include:

  • In traffic accidents, a breach in duty can include speeding, driving while under the influence, and distracted driving.
  • In a medical setting, a breach in duty can include a misdiagnosis, misreading laboratory results, and providing the incorrect medication.
  • In premises liability, a breach can occur when a property owner has recognized a condition as a safety hazard yet failed to repair the condition or provide sufficient warning about the hazard. Additionally, property owners must regularly inspect the property to avoid accidents. Failing to regularly inspect the property could constitute negligence.
  • In manufacturing, a breach can happen when there is a failure to carry out product testing, there was a lack of warnings about the potential risks of using the product, or there was a lack of care in the assembling process.

Defend Your Right to Compensation With the Support of an Experienced Litigator

Personal injury cases can be challenging to prove, especially if the accident has caused debilitating injuries. When an accident has been caused by another’s negligence, the State of California protects the injured person’s right to seek compensation from the wrongdoer. If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, discuss your legal options with an experienced litigator as soon as possible.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Attorney Justin H. King are exceptionally equipped to handle complex personal injury cases. The firm works with great care to build strong cases against the negligent defendant, including taking witness testimony, gathering critical evidence, and strong advocacy when dealing with insurance companies. After an accident, take swift action and obtain qualified legal representation that will help you maximize the compensation you deserve. Consider scheduling your free consultation with the attorneys at the Law Offices of Attorney Justin H. King today.

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