When Is Someone Legally Liable For Harming Another?
The feeling that someone else's actions led to you or a person you care about getting hurt is difficult to cope with. Within that concern, however, there is also a lingering question of whether the at-fault individual is legally liable. You have a right to know what a lawyer would say about your situation, and here are three elements that play into whether someone might owe compensation.
Assuming a Duty of Care
In naming a defendant for a claim or lawsuit, a lawyer has to show that the person accused assumed a duty of care. This is a legal idea that a person owes it to others to try to prevent those people from coming to harm under specific circumstances. It isn't a broad concept where you have to protect everyone. Instead, the idea is grounded in specific choices a defendant made.
Consider an auto accident claim. The law recognizes that every motorist takes on a duty of care when they drive a vehicle. For a car accident attorney, the moment the defendant in a case assumed a duty of care was when they turned the vehicle on.
What a Reasonable Person Would Do
American law acknowledges that not all harm is preventable. In the car accident example, a motorist might not be liable if the incident occurred during a freak ice storm.
There is, however, always a question about what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation. If you were driving 100 mph in that ice storm, that's vastly different than if you had slowed down to account for the hazardous conditions. A reasonable person wouldn't endorse driving 100 mph on a public road under any circumstances, and they certainly wouldn't encourage it during a storm.
Cases involving licensed professionals as much the same question, but who answers it is a little different. A doctor, for example, wouldn't ask a random person what they reasonably think the right treatment for a spinal cord injury is. You're most likely not a doctor, and you most likely won't have a meaningful answer.
Instead, the law turns to professionals to address what the standards are in their industries. When a doctor is accused of medical malpractice, not only does the law want to hear from other doctors, but it wants to hear from doctors in the same field as the defendant.
This is what's called a professional standard of care. If most heart surgeons, for example, would be appalled by the actions of another surgeon in a case, then the defendant may be found liable.
Contact a personal injury attorney like a car accident attorney to learn more.