What is the Duty of Care Element in a Car Accident Case?

Driver behind the wheel on a sunny dayCalifornia drivers have a legal obligation to avoid causing another person harm. This is known as the duty of care. It is an important element to help establish negligence in an accident case.

Below, we discuss the different standards of care, who is owed a duty of care and who must uphold a duty of care. Proving someone owes you a duty of care is just the first step in the legal process of an accident case. We are prepared to help.

Call our Sacramento auto collision attorneys today to get started. The consultation is free, and there are no upfront fees.

What Are the Different Standards of Care?

There are three main standards of care drivers in California must uphold.

Duty to Act in a Reasonable Manner

This is the most basic standard of care drivers have for others on the road.

Drivers must consider reasonable precautions to act in a manner that would not result in an injury to another person. He or she must consider how others, of sound mind, would respond in a similar situation and act accordingly.

Generally, obeying traffic laws is considered acting reasonably. Some examples of acting in a reasonable manner behind the wheel include:

If an emergency arises, drivers are still expected to respond in a manner that would be least likely to result in an injury to someone else. For example, if a sudden obstruction on the road causes the driver to swerve, he or she should swerve to the side of the road where there is no traffic to avoid a collision.

Duty to Refrain From Reckless Behavior

Reckless driving in California is defined as “driving in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

In other words, someone who knows their behavior poses a significant and unjustified risk of harming others, but willfully ignores those risks, is considered guilty of reckless driving.

Some examples of reckless driving include the following:

  • Excessive speeding
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Unsafe passing on a single lane highway
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

In California, reckless drivers may be charged with a felony if their actions result in serious bodily injury or death to another person.

Duty to Refrain From Intentional Injury

Drivers have a legal duty to avoid purposely injuring others on the road. This means aggressive drivers suffering from road rage may not legally ram their vehicles into others. It also means drivers cannot slam on their brakes for no reason, also known as “brake checking.”

Generally, insurance companies do not cover intentional actions. Therefore, they may try and attribute reckless disregard for your safety, like drunk driving, to an intentional act not covered under a liability policy.

If your insurance claim is denied because the insurance company is arguing the driver who injured you committed an intentional action, then you should consider working with a knowledgeable attorney. The insurance company may try to say anything to get you to accept a low settlement offer or withdraw your claim altogether.

Who is Owed a Duty of Care?

When it comes to car accident injury cases, drivers owe other road users a legal duty of care.

This means anyone on the road, including the following:

  • Other drivers
  • Bicyclists
  • Motorcyclists
  • Pedestrians

For certain kinds of road users, such as bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists, drivers owe a higher duty of care. This is because these individuals have fewer protections around their bodies if a crash were to occur.

Drivers are generally obligated to yield to pedestrians. While sharing the road with a cyclist, the driver should move over a lane when possible to give the individual on a bicycle more room. With motorcycles, drivers have a duty to look twice before changing lanes or merging onto a road at an intersection.

How Do You Prove You Were Owed a Duty of Care?

Once a person attains a driver’s license, he or she agrees to abide by the duty of care standards.

In car accident cases, you do not need to prove this because you are automatically owed a duty of care by other drivers simply by being a road user.

Need Help Proving Negligence? Call Us Today

To recover compensation after an accident, you must prove someone else’s negligent actions directly resulted in your damages. To prove negligence, you must prove you were owed a duty of care and that there was a breach of that duty.

Our knowledgeable attorneys are prepared to help you do this. We offer a free consultation to determine your legal options. If you choose to work with us, we do not charge you any upfront fees for our services.

Call 916-777-7777 today.