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Breach of Duty: What Does It Mean in a Personal Injury Claim?

Sometimes, understanding a breach of duty is pretty easy. If a parent leaves their child unattended in a public space, they’re neglecting their duties as a caregiver. Breach of duty can also apply to military service members if they wander off their assigned posts.

But what does it really mean in a personal injury claim? Since Texas follows proportional responsibility law, you must prove negligence to move forward with a personal injury claim—this means proving negligence in breach of duty, which can get more than a little complicated.

What is Duty of Care

Before you can understand what a breach of duty is, it helps to know what duty of care means in a personal injury claim. Okay, so let’s go back to the parenting example. You owe your child a duty of care, whichrefers to the legal responsibility you have to your child as a parent.

The same legal responsibility often applies in an individual’s professional life. Doctors owe their patients a duty of care. They are legally required to provide medical diagnosis and treatment under local and federal laws, along with abiding by rules that govern their profession.

As a vehicle driver, you have a legal responsibility to maintain control while driving. This means following all traffic laws and refraining from careless driving behavior. Businesses must provide a safe environment for their customers and visitors. If their conduct results in an unintentional or intentional accident, they’re neglecting their duty of care.

If you’re still a little confused. The simple explanation is you have a duty of care to not harm others. If your actions or behavior is negligent, for example texting while driving, you’re in breach of your duty of care. Not cleaning up a spill on a store floor can also be seen as a breach of duty.

Breach of Duty and Personal Injury Claims

Texas is a modified comparative negligence state.  This means, even if you’re partially responsible for the accident you may be able to file a personal injury claim. But, there is an exception; you can’t be assigned more than 51% of the blame for the accident.

If you’re 52% at fault, you can’t seek compensation for your damages. In other words, you’re reliant solely on your insurance to cover any medical expenses and property damage costs stemming from the accident.

To move forward with a personal injury claim, you must prove a breach of duty. In other words, the defendant’s actions or behavior is the direct cause of the accident. Breach of duty is an element of negligence. So how do you prove a breach of duty? You must prove the four elements of negligence, which include a breach of duty:

  1. The defendant owes you a duty of care, For example, if a driver runs a red light and smashes into your vehicle. Their actions (running the red light) are a breach of their legal duty of care.

  2. Show their actions are a breach of their legal duty of care. Running a red light is a violation of legal traffic laws.

  3. Neglecting their duty is directly responsible for your injuries.

  4. You also need to prove you suffered damages. Thankfully, this typically isn’t difficult. Your medical files and property repair/estimate receipts are usually enough to meet this final element.

Proving a breach of duty also means showing the defendant’s actions or behavior isn’t that of a reasonable person. Using the red light example, it’s safe to say a reasonable person will stop at a red light. Since the at-fault driver blew through the red light, their actions aren’t considered reasonable.

Don’t forget, that a breach of duty is only one element of negligence. You must also show the defendant owes you a duty of care, that their actions are negligent, and is the cause of your damages.

Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Case

Okay, so you’re familiar with the four elements of negligence but how do you prove these factors in court? Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can make it easier to meet each element’s burden of proof.

Proving Duty of Care

In most personal injury cases, this is one of the easiest elements of negligence to prove. Almost everyone is owed a duty of care by someone. Parents owe their children a duty of care, medical professionals have a responsibility to their patients, and drivers owe each other a reasonably safe environment.

In a personal injury case involving a car accident. Chances are, your official accident report is enough to show the other driver owes you a duty of care. An example of when a duty of care may not be applicable is if you’re injured trespassing on private property. Since you’re illegally on the property, the owner doesn’t owe you a duty of care.

Showing a Breach of Duty of Care

Your accident report can be an invaluable source of information when it comes to proving negligence. The report typically outlines the cause of the accident and this often shows the other driver is negligent in their duty of care.

If your injury is the result of a slip and fall accident, CCTV footage can also be useful evidence. The footage may show that an employee neglected to put out Wet Floor signs before you slipped on the wet floor. Usually, how you show a breach of duty depends on the type of accident.

Proving Your Injuries are Caused by Breach of Duty

This element of negligence builds off of the above factor. You must show the defendant’s actions are unreasonable. In other words, these aren’t the actions of a reasonable person. A reasonable person usually means following the law or accepted societal norms.

Most reasonable persons aren’t going to run a red light or knowingly leave a hazard out for someone to trip over. Once again, your accident report can provide helpful information such as how the defendant’s actions resulted in the accident.

Showing the Breach of Duty Caused Your Injuries

We touched on this final element of negligence earlier. Your medical records, property damage estimates, and yes, your accident report can all help you prove this particular element of negligence.

Don’t Let Someone’s Breach of Duty Impact Your Personal Injury Claim

Breach of duty is a crucial element in your personal injury claim, and proving it isn’t always easy. However, working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help ensure your legal rights are protected throughout your injury claim.

An attorney can meticulously gather evidence, consult with experts, and build a strong case to demonstrate how the breach directly led to your injuries and losses.

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