Understanding Duty of Care

The first element of negligence is that someone else had a duty to protect you from harm. That duty is often referred to as the “duty of care.” It is a broad concept that seems simple enough on paper, but it is actually very complex. Thankfully, there is a wide variety of case law in Florida that helps describe what the duty of care means in many contexts.

At the most basic level, the duty of care is the same as legal responsibility or liability. That is, if someone has a duty to you, then they are liable to you in some way. But how can you determine when that liability arises?

Breaking Down the Duty of Care: Reasonable Care

Every person in Florida has a duty to others to act in a reasonably safe manner. Everyone is required to do what they can to prevent harm to other people. While that requirement does not necessarily mean you are required to act when you see that damage is about to happen or is occurring, it does mean that people are required to behave in a way that will not bring about harm to others.

The duty of care is so broad that it applies in virtually any situation. Perhaps the easiest circumstance to understand is when someone is behind the wheel. Drivers have a legal duty to act as a reasonable person would in a similar situation and abide by all traffic laws. When they fail to do that, then they will likely be liable for any resulting damages.

It is unreasonable to drive above the speed limit or even drive faster than what is safe for the conditions (such as in dense fog or heavy rain).

The Duty of Care and Negligence

In virtually any personal injury case, you, as the victim or person who was harmed, must show that the responsible party was negligent.  The duty of care plays a big role in determining whether someone is negligent. You must show that someone is legally obligated to you as part of showing that someone has acted carelessly or recklessly.

In Florida, we use a term that is often referred to as the “foreseeable zone of risk.” It implies that someone who is acting must have known or should have known that their actions increased the risk that someone else would be harmed. The harm must also be foreseeable. The activity must generally increase the risk to you or people nearby that something would occur that could cause injury or damage.

The general rule still applies—everyone must refrain from taking action that will harm others. If you have been injured by another person, regardless of the circumstances, it is a good idea to speak with a personal injury lawyer to learn more about your options. You may be surprised to learn just how broad the duty of care can be in Florida. Call McKINNON LEGAL for more information or to schedule an appointment.