When Is A Duty Of Care Formed In An Injury Case?

Law Blog

A core concept in American injury law is the duty of care. This is the idea that, under certain circumstances, a person or an organization willingly takes on a responsibility to prevent others from being harmed. They accomplish this by following through on reasonable actions that any citizen would take in a similar situation. All that may sound a bit vague, but an injury attorney or a civil court judge will tell you the idea has a very specific meaning. Take a look at what might lead to a duty of care in a particular case.


This is the most direct way a duty of care can be formed. If someone invites you into an area, they may be taking on a duty to prevent you from coming to harm.

Notably, this doesn't have to be a directly spoken or written invitation. Many situations presume invitation, such as when a business opens its doors. There is, after all, a reason that people associate the job of a personal injury attorney with the idea of slip-and-fall incidents at stores.


The lack of an invitation doesn't mean there won't be potential liability if someone is hurt. You still can't take unreasonable steps that might lead someone else to be harmed, such as rigging up a deadly trap for an intruder. Likewise, you must assume that other people will occasionally come through some areas, such as your home's yard.

You can't leave your lawn looking like a death trap because a reasonable person would expect you to make a minimal effort to keep it in good repair. A reasonable person might expect, for example, that a child could wander into their yard chasing a lost ball. Therefore, there is some possible liability if the child were to be harmed.

Reasonableness, however, cuts both ways. A reasonable person wouldn't expect an unauthorized outsider to wander into the depths of a working steel mill, for example. That scenario would probably require an invitation, but it may vary by state.

Legal Requirement

Sometimes, the duty of care is outlined by the law. This is often accompanied by an implied or contractual acceptance. Motor vehicle drivers, for example, take on a duty of care when they register their rides and acquire their licenses. They must follow the rules of the road, and breaking them may create legal exposure if another person ends up injured.

For more information, contact a personal injury attorney.


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