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Breach of Duty: Violating the Standard of Care

NEGLIGENCE OCCURS WHEN A BREACH OF DUTY CAUSES INJURY.

The existence of a duty, without more, does not create negligence liability. However, when a person violates a legally-recognized duty of care, and that breach of duty causes injury (or damage) to a person or property, negligence liability may result.

WHEN HAS A PERSON BREACHED THE DUTY OF CARE?

Breach, or violation, of a duty occurs when a person fails to comply with a legally recognized standard of care. Whether or not a defendant has complied with the requisite duty (or duties) is generally an issue of fact determined by the jury (or by the judge, in a trial without a jury). In certain circumstances, however, the breach of a duty may be so clear or so obvious that no reasonable jury could hold otherwise, in which case the breach may be decided by the judge as an issue of law.

THE USUAL STANDARD OF CARE: WHAT WOULD A REASONABLE PERSON DO?

Normally, California law recognizes a “reasonably prudent person” standard, meaning that the applicable standard of care is what a reasonable person would do in the defendant’s situation or under the circumstances involved in the relevant case. The parties may generally introduce evidence of relevant customs and standards of care (for example, local business customs or customs within an industry or area), although these customs are not always dispositive or determinative with regard to establishing compliance with the standard of care.

Moreover, evidence that the defendant complied with applicable laws and regulations, although valuable, is not necessarily absolute proof that the defendant did not commit negligence. In certain cases, compliance with minimum statutory requirements is not sufficient to avoid liability for negligence – especially if the harm the plaintiff suffered was of a different type than the harm the statute or regulation was designed or intended to prevent.

Breach of duty is evaluated according to a “facts and circumstances” test, meaning that each case must be evaluated and judged on its own unique merits. Never use this or any other article to evaluate your legal rights, claims, or defenses. Always consult an attorney promptly if you have been injured or accused of causing an injury, through negligence or otherwise.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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