What is Duty of Care?

Duty of care establishes the existence of the defendant’s right to a legal duty of care to prevent foreseeable harm. This means that the defendant can expect reasonable care when interacting with others. Ideally, each individual refrains from acting in a way that could cause any foreseeable harm or injury to others. Sometimes the actions of one person harm or injure another person, which is why establishing a duty of care is essential to building a personal injury case.

An example of duty:

Say you are throwing the frisbee outside and the frisbee goes over the fence into your neighbor’s property. The gate is locked and a sign warns: “beware of dog”. You decide to call your neighbor’s cell phone and ask to be let in to grab your frisbee. The neighbor secures their dog and lets you in to grab your frisbee. At that point, the neighbor has allowed you onto their property and has a legal duty of care to keep you from foreseeable harm. If the neighbor did not secure their dog and the dog attacked you, you may be able to recover damages for the neighbor’s breach of their duty of care.

An Example of a lack of duty:

Say you are throwing the frisbee outside and the frisbee goes over the fence into your neighbor’s property. The gate is locked and a sign warns: “beware of dog”. You decide to climb over the fence to retrieve your frisbee. While on your neighbor’s property, the dog attacks you, severely injuring your leg. Your neighbor would likely not be responsible for your injuries because you were not invited onto his property. When this happens, the law does not require a duty of care from your neighbor.

Four Levels of Duty in personal injury law:


Negligence occurs when someone doesn’t have the intention to act in a harmful manner, but their actions create a foreseeable risk to others. Generally, every person has a duty to refrain from such behavior.

Example 1:

If a property owner knows their dog might attack or harm others, they have the duty to secure the animal. If the owner allows the dog to roam free, their pet might cause harm to another. While this harm is not intentional, it is a result of negligence.

Example 2:

If a restaurant owner knows some of the kitchen machinery can be dangerous, he or she has a duty to warn kitchen staff of this. The manager can teach staff how to properly use the machinery or warn them of the dangers. If a member of the kitchen staff is not warned and is harmed by the machinery, the manager can be held responsible. This is because while the owner did not intentionally cause harm, their negligence did.

Duty to refrain from intentional injury

Intentional injury happens when a person injures another without legal justification. In the eyes of the law, an intentional injury is wrong and the injured party has the right to recover damages.

Example 1:

Person A, without any provocation or justification, kicks person B, breaking her knee. This is an intentional injury.

Example 2:

Person A writes slanderous information about Person B on the internet. As a result, Person B loses her job and marriage. Personal A has committed an intentional injury.

Strict Liability

Strict liability laws apply to manufacturing defects in products. If a product causes injury, the manufacturer can be held responsible without proof of negligence or recklessness.


A person buys a microwave and uses it as it is intended to be used. The microwave catches fire, injuring the owner. It is the manufacturer’s duty to prevent a defective product from being sold to consumers. The fire itself can be proof that the manufacturer breached its duty.


Reckless behavior happens when a person knows or should have known that their conduct would likely cause harm or injury to others. It is important to remember that recklessness is a greater level of liability than negligence. Recklessness is acting in an unsafe or unlawful way that disregards human safety or property.


If a driver runs a red light they are acting out of recklessness. This behavior can likely result in harm to others who are following the rules of the road. If the reckless driver injures another from this behavior, they can be held liable for damages.

If you have been injured as a result of a breach in duty of care, call (678) 819-5200 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.