A duty of care is an obligation or requirement to act in a specific manner as required by custom, law, or morality. A breach of duty is failing to act in the manner required by your duty of care. Duty and breach of duty are the first two elements of a negligence claim.
Negligence is the basis for most personal injury claims in Florida. It is the failure to act with a reasonable level of care to prevent an increased risk of harm or injury to another person. In other words, it’s failing to avoid reckless and careless conduct that could cause an accident or injury.
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How Does Breach of Duty Apply in a Personal Injury Claim Based on Negligence?
An injured party (plaintiff) has the burden of proving all four elements of negligence. The elements link together to create a chain of causation that leads to damages. You will not win your case if you cannot prove all four elements.
Before applying breach of duty to the case, you must define the duty of care.
Duty of Care
You must prove that the defendant owed you a legal duty of care and what that duty of care was given the circumstances. In most situations, everyone owes a duty of care not to put others at risk of harm or injury.
However, the specific duty owed varies depending on the relationship between the parties and the situation. For example, Florida drivers have a duty to drive with reasonable caution and obey traffic laws to avoid car accidents.
You must know the appropriate level of care before you can prove breach of duty. The level of care is based on the “reasonable person” standard. The defendant must have acted with the same level of care that a person with ordinary prudence would have used, given the same set of circumstances.
Breaching the Duty of Care
Now that you have established the duty of care and the level of care that should have been used, you must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care. In other words, they failed to act or acted in a way that was inconsistent with what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation.
For example, drivers must obey traffic signals. They must stop for red lights and remain stopped until the light turns green and they have the right of way. Running a red light would be considered a breach of duty because a reasonably prudent person obeys traffic laws.
Evidence that could be used to prove a breach of duty might include:
- Video from traffic cameras or nearby surveillance cameras
- Testimony from eyewitnesses
- Statements from the injured party
- Opinions from accident reconstructionists and other expert witnesses
- Physical evidence from the accident scene and the vehicles
Proving breach of duty might be challenging in some cases. A Florida personal injury lawyer will investigate the cause of the accident or injury to gather evidence. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the quicker the lawyer can begin collecting and preserving evidence necessary to prove breach of duty.
Even if you proved a breach of duty, you have not won the case. You must also prove the last two elements of negligence to hold the defendant responsible for your damages.
Causation is the reason something happens. In a personal injury case, it is the reason you are injured.
Proving causation requires you to prove:
- Direct or Factual Cause – The actual reason you were injured or the “but for” test. You would not have been injured “but for” the other party’s conduct.
- Proximate Cause – Your injuries were a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s conduct.
Causation can be difficult to prove in some personal injury cases. You must prove both elements to establish causation. One without the other is not sufficient.
If you did not sustain damages, you cannot receive compensation from the at-fault party. Therefore, proving damages is just as important as proving breach of duty.
Compensatory damages include economic damages and non-economic damages.
Examples of these damages include:
- The pain and suffering caused by physical injuries
- The medical costs to treat your physical injuries, including diagnostic tests, doctor’s bills, surgery costs, nursing care, physical therapy, and medications
- Loss of income and benefits, including diminished earning potential and future lost wages because of a permanent impairment
- Out-of-pockets expenses and costs, including help with household chores and personal care
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement, impairments, scarring, and disabilities
- A decrease in your quality of life
The value of your damages and how much your claim is worth depend on many factors. Permanent impairments and catastrophic injuries generally increase the value of damages. However, allegations of comparative fault could reduce the compensation you receive.
Your attorney will diligently document your damages to maximize the value of your personal injury claim.
Contact a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer For Help Proving a Breach of Duty and Other Elements of Negligence
Our Florida personal injury attorneys from Winters & Yonker, P.A. will help you prove the legal elements of your case to recover compensation for damages. Call or contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.