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What is a duty of care?

Slipping and falling on the property of someone else can inflict a painful injury. You might need weeks to recover your health, and even then, you might feel emotional turmoil for a long time afterward. To establish that the property owner bore responsibility for your fall, your legal team will likely have to explain that the owner owed you a duty of care.

A duty of care is important to a personal injury case. It establishes that the people in charge of a premises had a particular duty to you. The property owner may try to deny a duty of care existed or that you had fallen for reasons having nothing to do with the negligence of the property owners.

Defining a duty of care

According to FindLaw, a duty of care is when a particular party like a property owner has a responsibility towards individuals who may be on the property at a given time. This responsibility can involve proper maintenance of the property to prevent injury. If a hazard presents itself, the responsible party should take steps to eliminate the hazard or to warn pedestrians that the hazard exists and to stay away from it.

In a slip and fall case, a responsible party might have noticed that there is a spill on the floor or damage to the floor that could cause a fall. The proper duty of care is to warn people to detour away from the hazard. If the responsible party failed to take the necessary steps, then the party has breached the duty of care owed to the people on the property, and a judge or jury may hold the party liable.

Dismissing a duty of care

Not all slip and fall accidents result from a breach of a duty of care. Establishing liability may depend upon whether the responsible party could have reasonably known that you would be on the property. If you patronize a public store, it is a given that the management of the property should prepare for your presence by keeping the location safe during operational hours.

However, your situation might change if you had suffered an accident on a property after normal hours of operation. Sometimes judges do not find property owners owe a duty of care if someone trespassed on the property. If a property owner had no reasonable expectation of your presence, you might find it hard to recover damages from a slip and fall accident.