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When Has a Person Breached the Duty of Care?


Generally speaking, a “breach” of a duty occurs when a person acts (or fails to act) in a way that violates an applicable, legally-recognized standard of care. Sometimes, people behave in a careless or insensitive manner – or even with hostility – but if the conduct does not violate a legally recognized standard of care (a “legally recognized duty”) that applies to the person in question, the conduct may not give rise to liability for negligence.

Note that the law does have other ways of punishing wrongdoing. Tort law – the branch of civil law that governs private wrongdoings – gives plaintiffs other remedies, instead of and in addition to negligence, to redress harm and damages caused by others. A person’s actions may also violate criminal laws – laws designed to enforce public safety and redress damages caused to public safety. Sometimes, people’s actions violate multiple laws – both civil and criminal – and in such cases, people may be held liable under both civil and criminal law.


The normal standard for judging a breach of duty involves asking whether the defendant acted in the way a “normally prudent person” (sometimes also referred to as a “reasonable person”) would have acted under similar circumstances. When the defendant failed to act in a normally prudent manner (with regard to the plaintiff and/or the relevant duty) the defendant is often found to have “breached” or violated the duty.

Courts may consider local customs, or the standard practices in a certain area or industry when determining whether or not a defendant’s conduct met the relevant standard of care. Applicable laws and regulations may also factor into this evaluation – though the fact that a defendant complied with all applicable laws, rules, and standards may not always “prove” that the defendant’s actions were proper.

Only an evaluation of the particular facts and circumstances of a given case can determine whether or not a defendant breached a duty or acted negligently. This is why it’s so important for injured people to consult an experienced lawyer promptly after suffering injury or property damage.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW 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. Most legal claims (and defenses) 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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