What Is Duty Of Care?

If you start looking into a civil lawsuit for negligence, or you read up about these cases in the media, there is one phrase that commonly appears in arguments and that is “duty of care.” So what is it, and why is it such a common element of cases where negligence is argued to be the cause of an accident? Let’s take some time to explore this essential legal term.

A Legal Obligation

Duty of care is a catch-all term that refers to different people, in different situations having a basic, legal requirement to ensure the safe conditions in whatever place or activity they find themselves in. This means, for example, that in a school, if a teacher witnesses one student attacking another, that teacher has a duty of care to step in and stop the attack, preventing further harm to the victim.

In the confines of a shopping mall, duty of care will rest with the management and the staff of the management to maintain a safe environment for shoppers. So, for example, one day the management realizes that one of the escalators is in very poor condition. One of the steps on the escalator may someday fall away, revealing the lethal mechanical gears underneath that step, which could actually kill any adult or child subjected to it, since it would literally grind them down. The management now has a duty of care to ensure that the problematic escalator gets repaired to prevent this type of lethal defect from happening.

Sadly, just such an incident occurred in China in 2015, resulting in the death of a mother as she pushed her child to safety. However, China doesn’t have the same legal protections for its citizens as America does, and ignoring safety regulations, bribery, and corruption are routine occurrences in the country with no legal recourse for its citizens.

And of course, duty of care exists not just for professionals, in a work setting, but anyone that gets behind the driver’s wheel of a car. Once you are a driver, you have a duty of care to others to not drive while drunk, to pay attention to the road, and to not drive in a reckless, endangering manner. Any driver that flouts this is ignoring duty of care.

Answerable To The Law

This is where the law comes in. While failing to adhere to basic duty of care is not considered a criminal act, it is considered illegal, with ramifications in a court of law. This is especially true if the negligence of duty of care results in an injury or even death.

If this should happen to you, you now have the option of talking to a personal injury lawyer and seeing what future actions you should take. If you know that it wasn’t your fault, and there’s a good chance that convincing evidence can be found to prove to a jury that you’re right, then consider taking action that action to court, and moving forward with a personal injury lawsuit based on failing to execute basic, duty of care obligations..