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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

What Is Duty of Care in Personal Injury Law - Understanding the Indiana Legal System

In most personal injury cases, plaintiffs must prove that defendants breached the "duty of care" to hold them accountable for the accident or related injuries. Therefore, people planning to file these types of claims should understand the definition of this legal obligation.


The "duty of care" standard is closely related to negligence laws in Indiana. Here's everything people involved in an accident caused by another individual's actions should know about it.


What Is the Duty of Care?

What Is the Duty of Care?


The "duty of care" defines people's legal duty to avoid injuring others by acting reasonably.

As it is a core principle of personal injury law, also known as tort law, an individual who fails to comply with this legal standard may be found liable in a civil case if they harm others.


In a car accident involving a driver who ran a red light and hit another vehicle, the person who was driving the affected car can sue the driver who caused the accident or damages they suffered. This may include medical bills, treatment expenses, and vehicle repairs.


The driver who ran the red light and caused the accident had a legal duty to use reasonable care. If they did not meet it and harmed another individual on the road, they can be found responsible for the damages that person incurred.


Since a reasonable driver would not have run the red light because this careless act poses obvious risks, the injured person may prove that the other party failed to meet the required standard of care.


When a Person Breaks the Duty of Care, Are They Considered Negligent?


In the legal field, the term "negligence" describes situations where a person owes a duty to another individual and fails to comply with it. If this conduct results in an accident, the negligent party is responsible for the injured individual's injuries.


Establishing Negligence in Indiana

In Indiana, plaintiffs must prove the following elements to establish negligence:

  • Duty of care: The evidence must show that the defendant owed the claimant a duty of care, which means they are required to exercise a standard of care to avoid harming other people.

  • Breach of that duty: Plaintiffs must also show that the person they are suing breached that duty of care by failing to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring others.

  • Causation: The evidence presented by the plaintiff must also prove that the defendant's breach of the duty of care caused the injuries.

  • Damages: The person bringing the legal action must prove that they suffered harm, either economic or non-economic damages, because of the injuries caused by the defendant.


The Duty of Care in Indiana


In Indiana, the duty of care can go beyond the degree of care a reasonable person would exercise in a particular situation. Under certain circumstances, this standard is more specific.


Under state premises liability laws, the standard of care a property owner must meet depends on the classification of the person who suffered the injury.


In this state, a person who is injured on someone else's property may be an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser.


Additionally, Indiana imposes a higher standard of care in some cases. Common carriers must exercise the highest degree of care to ensure that passengers are safe, for example.


Examples – Different Parties and Their Duty of Care

Here are a few examples of different types of individuals and their duty of care:

  • Drivers: All drivers are required to exercise a reasonable duty of care to avoid actions that may harm other people on the road.

  • Bus drivers and other common carriers: They must exercise the highest degree of care to ensure all passengers' safety.

  • Medical professionals: Healthcare providers must exercise the degree of skill and care that a reasonable person delivering medical care would exercise in a profession requiring the same training and experience.

  • Store owners: They are required to exercise reasonable care in performing maintenance to their business premises and keeping them free of dangers.

  • Product manufacturers: All product brands or manufacturers are legally required to sell products that are free from defects.


How to Satisfy the Duty of Care in Indiana

In most personal injury cases, the defendant owes a duty of care to the plaintiff. It is often the degree of care that a reasonable person should exercise in the same circumstances to avoid hurting others.


When injured people file personal injury lawsuits, the judge or jury must determine what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation. If the defendant departed from this standard, they may be considered negligent.


Determining whether the defendant acted reasonably often depends on the type of injury.


If the defendant fails to fulfill their duty to act as a reasonable person to avoid causing foreseeable injury, the jury or judge will likely side with the plaintiff.


The Negligence Per Se Doctrine

In an Indiana personal injury claim, the plaintiff would have to prove that the defendant owed them this legal duty and breached it. However, these standards are slightly different under the negligence per se doctrine. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has insight on intentional tort vs negligence in personal injury cases as well.


Claimants should focus on the defendant's law-breaking act to establish the first two elements of negligence. That means they should prove that the other party broke the law.


In other words, the plaintiff is not required to prove that the other party owed them a duty of care and breached it if they can demonstrate that the defendant broke the law.


However, "negligence per se" is only available under certain circumstances, including when the defendant broke the following:

  • A law enacted for the safety and protection of the public

  • A law that expresses the rules of conduct in a specific context

When the negligence per se doctrine is available in a personal injury case, the plaintiff must still prove causation and damages. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can explain what a release in a settlement is.


What Should Victims Do If They Were Injured by Someone Else's Actions?

What Should Victims Do If They Were Injured by Someone Else's Actions?


If they sustain a foreseeable or intentional injury caused by someone else, people can bring legal action against the at-fault party to recover compensation.


However, the process is often challenging, complex, and time-consuming. Therefore, injured people should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.


If an injury occurs, personal injury attorneys in Indianapolis IN can help victims collect evidence, build a solid case, calculate damages, and understand their rights in order to file a claim against the at-fault party. Additionally, legal experts can determine the best course of action to prove that the defendant owes them a duty of care but breached that duty.


Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!


Anyone in need of legal counsel can find a seasoned personal injury lawyer at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys. Contact us today!

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