What is a Duty of Care, and How Does it Tie into Your Personal Injury Case?

Whether you suffered a serious personal injury due to a slip and fall, a car accident, medical malpractice, a defective product, or other cause, you will have to show that these four conditions apply to your case: 

  • The defendant owed you a certain duty of care;
  • The defendant breached the duty of care that you were owed;
  • The event that caused your injuries resulted from the breach; and 
  • You are eligible for damages (compensation) as a result of your injuries.  

Failure to satisfy the first two elements — confirming that the defendant breached a duty of care that he or she ultimately owed you — is where many personal injury cases fall apart. Just because you were at the grocery store, slipped on a wet surface, fell, and cracked your pelvis does not automatically mean the store owner or manager breached the duty of care you were owed. 

Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser?

The level of care a property manager or owner is responsible for depends on the nature of the plaintiff and whether or not the plaintiff had permission to be on the property. Plaintiffs fall under one of three statuses: invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Invitees are given the strongest protections; these include people who have the property owner’s or manager’s express or implied permission to be on the property. Shoppers are generally designated as invitees. Licensees are people who are on a property for their own benefit but ultimately have permission from the owner or manager to be there. The only rights of trespassers are to not be intentionally injured by a property owner or manager. 

Let’s go back to the example of your being a grocery shopper who cracked your pelvis after slipping on a wet surface. You establish that you’re an invitee, which means you get a relatively high duty of care. That’s good news. Next, you must determine whether or not the store owner or manager actually breached the duty of care owed to an invitee. 

Your attorney investigates and concludes that a busted juice container caused the floor to be slippery. The store has a duty to exercise the vigilance and prudence of a “reasonable person” when it comes to identifying and correcting hazards. In other words, how long would it have taken the average store employee to find out about the spilled juice? If the juice had been on the floor for only a couple of minutes, you’d have a difficult time convincing a judge or jury that the store would conduct an inspection of the store every few minutes. 

Conversely, your case is likely to have a greater chance of success if the juice had been on the floor for more than a couple of hours. It’s reasonable to expect that, within two hours, a store employee would have knowledge of the spill and either place “wet floor” signs around the spill or immediately clean it up. Put simply, you have to give the store a reasonable chance to recognize a hazard and handle the situation. 

Do You Have a Case? We Can Help

Between doctor visits and lost income, we understand the financial stress you or a loved one is dealing with following an accident caused by someone else. Attorney Heather Bryan is experienced in holding negligent parties accountable and getting personal injury victims justice. We’d love the chance to connect with you about your legal needs today. Call us at 863-825-5309 to set up an appointment.

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Heather Bryan Law, P.A.

Our firm has experience defending Floridians against all sorts of criminal charges. Additionally, we are well-equipped to handle emotionally charged family law matters and devastating personal injury cases.

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