Duty to Be Careful

Any time there is a personal injury lawsuit, there can be no doubt that the person bringing the lawsuit must show that the person being sued had a “duty of care” to the Plaintiff. This is one of the elements that must be shown in every personal injury lawsuit.  In our last blog, we discussed the four elements of a personal injury claim:  Duty, Breach, Cause and Damages.   Today we are going to discuss duty of care.

All people in New Mexico have a legal duty to act reasonably so that they avoid injury to other people.  If an individual fails to act reasonably, he/she may be liable for any harm caused to others.

In a car crash case, it is particularly easy to see this duty of care.  Everyone knows you have a duty to others to follow the traffic laws.  For example, we all know that each driver has a duty to yield the right of way to other vehicles, a duty to stop for a stop sign or a stop light that has turned red and that drivers have a duty to drive safely.

It is important to note that all drivers have a duty of care to protect themselves from harm, if possible.  A driver has a duty of care to wait for traffic to clear an intersection before proceeding.  A pedestrian has a duty of care to pay attention to traffic and wait until it is safe to cross a street even if the sign says he can go.

In a premises liability case the claim arises from a duty of a property owner, usually a store owner, to keep the premises free of dangerous conditions.  This could mean regularly cleaning the store to check for spills or liquids, repairing pot holes in the parking lot, making sure that the ice machine is fixed and not pooling water in the walking area, or, as happened in one case handled by Whitener Law Firm, not having rebar sticking up out of the ground in a hotel parking lot where there is inadequate lighting and little girls may be walking her dog.

This duty of care applies to most people and in most situations.  However, there may be special duties owed by certain individuals or entities.  For example, common carriers like airplane pilots, bus drivers, and train drivers have special duties.  They have a higher duty to act reasonably and carefully because of the nature of their business.  This heightened duty increases the responsibility of the individual or entity and often means that these individuals must meet a higher standard of behavior or care than other non-professional individuals.

Some professions also have a special duty of care.  Medical doctors are a good example of this special duty.  Doctors have a duty to act as a reasonable doctor would under the particular circumstance of a case.  A doctor’s duty of care is determined by the type of facility and geographical area where he/she practices.  It is usually referred to as a “standard of care” that the doctor is required to meet.  To show a doctor committed medical malpractice, you must show he/she breached the standard of care.

Note that even children have a duty of care.  While there is no expectation that a child act as a reasonable adult, they can be expected to act as a child of a similar age and education would act.  In some cases, a parent can be liable for the conduct of his child.

Next blog we will talk about breach of duty of care and negligence.

If you have personal injuries as the result of someone’s negligence or carelessness, you should talk to the personal injury attorneys at Whitener Law Firm.  Our attorneys have more than a 100 years of combined legal experience.  

Contact Whitener Law Firm ONLINE or at (505) 883-RUSS for a FREE CONSULTATION.  Remember there is NO ATTORNEY FEE unless you settle or win your case. 

After a Crash, Don’t Accept Quick Cash… call Whitener Law Firm, P.A.