Were you a pedestrian injured in an auto accident? To get the compensation you deserve to recover and rebuild, you’ll need to navigate the tricky world of personal injury claims. One key part of all such personal injury cases is the legal concept of duty of care.
What is duty of care and how does it relate to both the driver and pedestrian? And how can it affect your injury claim damages? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Duty of Care?
Duty of care is a legal term describing the responsibility each person has to act reasonably in a manner so as to avoid harm to others. In terms of a motor vehicle and pedestrian accident, this translates to the expectation that both parties act reasonably to avoid an accident.
Acting reasonably means acting as a reasonable person would be expected to in the circumstances. This measure is somewhat broad, but it doesn’t mean that a driver is expected to be able to avoid accidents like a trained stunt driver would. But neither is the person allowed to text and drive with impunity. Their duty of care would need to be somewhere in the middle.
Most personal injury cases involve the dereliction of this duty of care, known as a breach of duty. Breaches happen in many ways. For instance, a driver who runs a red light has failed, or breached, their duty to drive in a manner that can be reasonably expected to avoid injuring others.
What Is the Driver’s Duty of Care?
Every driver has a particular duty of care because of the added responsibility of driving their vehicle. This responsibility includes such common sense expectations as not driving while distracted or impaired, obeying the speed limit and traffic laws, avoiding reckless driving, and yielding the right of way to pedestrians.
There may be additional duty of care responsibility placed on a driver in special circumstances as well. For instance, a professional driver who has additional training may find that the court expects them to exercise additional caution due to that experience. And drivers who operate a vehicle in areas frequented by children would be expected to show extra caution as children cannot be relied upon to act like adults.
What Is the Pedestrian’s Duty of Care?
As a pedestrian, you are not free from all responsibility. The pedestrian’s duty of care is essentially to take reasonable actions to prevent harm to themselves. This usually involves obeying traffic laws. Walking in a crosswalk, for instance, is acting in a reasonable way to prevent harm to yourself. However, if you jaywalk and cross in an unprotected spot, you could be deemed as breaching your duty to prevent harm to yourself.
A pedestrian shouldn’t feel that this duty of care expectation means they are being blamed for their accident or injuries. It’s a universal legal concept that everyone in a society abides by and shouldn’t be taken personally.
How Does Duty of Care Affect Damages?
Duty of care is not just an esoteric legal concept, though. It affects your case in real ways. The most common is when it causes damages to be lowered by the court. If the judge determines that you breached your duty of care to yourself, such as by crossing against the red light, he or she may reduce the amount of damages awarded to you. The amount of such reductions varies depending on both parties’ actions.
This reduction is often calculated as a percentage of liability. For example, if the judge calculates that by jaywalking at night, you bear 50% of the responsibility of the accident, your damages may be lowered by 50%. If, on the other hand, your jaywalking during the light of day is deemed to be 25% responsible for the incident, damages may be lowered by 25%.
The good news is that shared responsibility doesn’t absolve the driver of all liability. Even if you may reasonably bear some of the burden by your own actions, don’t give up on your personal injury claim. While damages may not be granted at 100% of what you seek, you will likely get a significant portion anyway. Remember that drivers generally have a heavier duty than pedestrians.
Where Can You Learn More About Duty of Care?
Do you want to know more about how duty of care is determined in your specific personal injury lawsuit? Or how damages could be affected by your actions in the incident? Start by consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney in your state.
Garrison Law Firm specializes in personal injury cases throughout the state of Arizona. With more than 85 years of combined legal experience, our team can help Arizona pedestrians understand difficult subjects, like duty of care, and build successful injury claims. Call today to make an appointment and discuss the specifics of your case.