What Does Duty Of Care Mean?

You may have heard the term ‘duty of care’ before, but what does it mean in practice and how can it protect you as you go about your daily life?

A duty of care is something that each person owes every other person – we all have a responsibility to be mindful of others and try our hardest to assess risk so that we don’t cause injury to occur, even while performing seemingly innocuous tasks like pushing a trolley or walking a dog.

In some industries and for some professions, a duty of care bears even more responsibility, such as the duty of care a doctor owes their patient or that a teacher owes their student. A duty of care is a legal obligation no matter what the relationship or circumstances and it is possible for a breach of duty of care to result in a claim for compensation being brought against the party in breach.

What does it mean if a duty of care is breached?

A breach of duty of care occurs when an individual or group of individuals are injured due to the action/s of another when it was reasonably foreseeable that the negligent party’s action/s could cause injury, and that a reasonable person would not have acted in the same manner under the same circumstances.

What are some examples of a breach of duty of care?

There are countless types of duty of care and relationships in which a duty of care exists, however, some of the most common examples of a breach of duty of care include:

  • injuries in public places, such as slips, trips and falls in shopping centres, on stairs or uneven footpaths or in car parks in cases where walkways should be clear and well maintained;
  • injuries in private premises, such as workplaces or private homes where the landlord must ensure the premises are well-maintained and fit for purpose. Occupiers of the premises, such as tenants, will bear the duty of care in some circumstances; and
  • injuries endured at an amusement park where the operator has been negligent in maintaining and repairing rides, structures or other equipment used by patrons.

How much compensation is paid for a breach of duty of care?

The amount of compensation paid to victims who are injured because of a breach of duty of care will vary from case to case, but typically the injured party can sue the party who breached the duty of care for damages, including:

  • lost earnings when the injury has caused the injured party to take time off work or will cause the injured party to take time off work in the future;
  • medical expenses (both already incurred and future expenses);
  • costs associated with care that has been provided to the injured party (including if a spouse or family member has acted in the capacity of a carer); and/or
  • a lump-sum payment for pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life because of the injury.

How do I know if I am eligible for compensation following a breach of duty of care?

If you have been injured due to the action of another person and you believe they breached their duty of care you should seek legal assistance to understand your position and ascertain if you might be eligible for compensation.

A personal injury lawyer will be able to assist you with:

  • establishing your eligibility to make a claim;
  • gathering the evidence required to establish a duty of care existed and prove that a breach of that duty occurred;
  • collating the relevant materials to build a strong case to support your claim;
  • estimating what type of compensation you may be eligible for (for example, if your case is strong enough to seek a lump sum payment for pain and suffering);
  • helping you to navigate the strict deadlines and important appointments related to making a claim of this nature; and
  • representing you at trial (if a settlement does not occur).

Our experienced personal injury lawyers can help with all of the above and would be pleased to assist you if you have been injured due to a breach of duty of care.

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