Due care is defined as the effort made by an ordinarily prudent or reasonable party to avoid harm to another, taking the circumstances into account. Due care, also referred to as “due diligence,” refers to the level of judgment, prudence, care, determination and activity that a person can reasonably be expected to give under certain circumstances. For example, all drivers in the United States have a duty of care to drive reasonably and with respect to others while on the road. This means driving in a way that prevents accidents, like following the speed limit and obeying traffic signals and signs.
Those with a Duty of Care
In the United States, it is everyone’s responsibility to act in a reasonable manner to prevent causing injury to others. In certain professions or scenarios, a higher duty of care is owed, meaning that a person or entity may be liable for damages even if they are only partially at fault for causing injury. Examples of those who owe a higher duty of care are:
- Bus drivers
- Taxi drivers
- Airplane pilots
- Train operators
- Business owners
- Product manufacturers and distributors
In addition to general duty of care, medical doctors are also held to a medical standard of care, meaning that a doctor is expected to manage a patients care with the same skill and professionalism a similarly-trained doctor would in the same or similar situation.
Like doctors, lawyers are also held to a higher standard of care. They too are held to the standard to act in a way that any reasonable attorney in possession of the same knowledge and skills would act when working with a client.
Although everyone is expected to exercise due care, there are some groups that are held to a different standard. For example, children are not expected to exercise the same duty of care as adults. They are still expected to behave in a way that is reasonable for a child of similar age, intelligence, and life experience in similar circumstances.
Those with a physical disability are held to the same duty of care that an ordinarily reasonable person would observe if they suffered from that same disability. The courts treat mental disabilities differently and hold those with mental disabilities to the same general duty of care. The only exception is when the onset of mental illness was sudden and unforeseeable.
Due Care’s Role in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In personal injury law, counsel will look at “duty of care” when trying to determine if a party was at fault for a negligence case. Negligence claims occur with car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, or defective products. To bring about a successful negligence claim, a plaintiff and their counsel must prove the four elements of negligence. Those elements are:
- Duty of Care: The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances.
- Breach of Duty of Care: The defendant breached their legal duty of care by acting negligently or failing to act in a way that would prevent incident or injury.
- Causation: The defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Damages: The plaintiff suffered quantifiable damages that can be remedied through monetary compensation.
If a plaintiff and their counsel can prove the four elements of negligence above, they will likely be able to bring about a successful personal injury case that could result in a settlement or verdict. The damages a plaintiff receives for their injuries can help them cover expenses incurred due to the incident like medical bills, lost wages, and loss of enjoyment of life.