What Does “Breach of Duty” Mean?

In law, the word “breach” refers to a violation of a legal responsibility or duty. A breach of contract means that someone has failed to abide by the terms of the contract.

In personal injury law, breach is one of the elements of negligence. In this context, a breach describes a failure to abide by one’s duty of care to another person.

 If you have legal questions, make sure you get in touch with an experienced attorney.

How a Breach of Duty Occurs in a Negligence Case

A negligence claim is the most common way to seek compensation after an accident. Negligence lawsuits are common after slip and falls, medical malpractice, and car accidents, to name a few.

There are four main elements in a negligence case:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff (injury victim) a duty of care
  • The defendant breached their duty of care
  • The breach caused the plaintiff harm, and
  • The harm resulted in damages

An injury victim must prove all four of these elements to win a negligence case. A victim’s own level of fault can also affect how much compensation they receive.

What is a Duty of Care?

When someone has a duty of care, it means that they have a legal responsibility to avoid harming another person. Duties arise from law, custom, or relationships. For example, if you are driving along a Florida road, you owe a duty of care to other drivers to drive carefully and obey all traffic laws. Traffic laws impose this duty on all drivers.

Likewise, medical providers have a duty to provide the proper standard of care to their patients. If a doctor commits medical malpractice, then they have breached their duty of care.

Finally, property owners, such as businesses and restaurants, have a duty to maintain safe premises for guests. Public and private property owners are subject to this duty as well. If a property owner fails to address dangerous conditions on their property, they may have breached their duty.  

How Does a Breach Occur in a Negligence Case

The reasonable person standard is used to determine whether a breach has occurred in a given situation. A person breaches their duty to another person when they fail to act as a reasonable person under the circumstances. A reasonable person acts with common sense and prudence to avoid injuring others.

A jury ultimately decides whether a defendant’s conduct was reasonable or unreasonable. If their conduct was unreasonable, the jury may find that the defendant breached their duty. In many cases, this analysis will be simple.

For example, say a driver runs a red light and crashes into another car. Remember, a driver has a duty to obey traffic laws and drive safely. The jury would likely find that a reasonable person obeys traffic laws and signals to avoid putting others at risk of harm. They would presumably find that a reasonable person would not run a red light because it presents an unreasonable risk of injury to other drivers and pedestrians. 

Therefore, the jury would find the defendant breached their duty to obey traffic laws and drive safely.

How a Breach of Duty Occurs in a Strict Liability Case

Strict liability laws seek to protect public health, safety, and welfare. An injury victim may not have to prove negligence to recover compensation for their damages in certain cases. They only have to show that another party engaged in prohibited conduct that caused them harm. 

Examples of strict liability cases include:

  • Abnormally dangerous activities: These are activities that always create a foreseeable risk of serious harm. Some activities are so dangerous that there is a high potential for harm even when taking precautions. Examples include using explosives, nuclear power, and other highly dangerous activities.  
  • Product liability: All product manufacturers and distributors have a duty of care to ensure that their products don’t harm consumers. If a company manufactures a defective product that injures consumers, the company can be held strictly liable for its conduct.
  • Dog bites and wild animal ownership: All animal owners have a duty to protect the public from their animals. If a dog bites you, then the owner of that dog can be held strictly liable for your injuries. Likewise, if a person owns a wild animal, they can be strictly liable when the animal attacks another person. Wild animal ownership creates foreseeable risks of danger to the community.

You can only file a strict liability claim in specific situations. Contact a personal injury lawyer for help understanding your claim.

Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer for Help

If you were hurt in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. A Clearwater personal injury lawyer can help you prove that another party breached their duty and injured you. They can conduct investigations to gather critical evidence and identify all at-fault parties. They can also show the insurance company or jury how the at-fault party violated their duty to you.