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Establishing Duty and Breach of Duty in Accident Cases

Duty may seem like a quaint notion these days, but it is truly at the heart of the obligations in our legal system that form the basis for why we seek recovery in car accidents. It’s probably the last thing people think about, and, maybe at a deeper level, if people did think about it more, there would be fewer lawsuits. But duty, or rather the breach of that duty, fires the engine behind every car accident lawsuit.

The Role of Negligence in Accident Cases

The majority of car accident cases are negligence cases, which means that the accident wasn’t done on purpose but rather resulted from somebody not paying attention to what they were doing on the road or ignoring vehicle and traffic regulations. These regulations form the basis of the duty owed to all other drivers on the road that we conduct our driving as a reasonably prudent person would under the circumstances.

Of course, this rule doesn’t pertain only to driving a car. Many other negligence cases arise out of a breach of duty where reasonable behavior may have led to avoiding existing dangerous conditions.

For instance, I handled a case several years ago where the victim had fallen into a hole in her own front lawn. She suffered a severe injury to her leg, ankle and foot. She did not know where the hole had come from, but upon careful examination, it was the result of a cable utility box cover that had not been properly secured. Therefore, when she stepped on it, her foot went right through the box, causing her injuries.

The claim here was based on the duty owed by the utility company to properly secure the cover on the cable box in a reasonably prudent way, ensuring that people walking on the box will not be caused to fall into it and injure themselves.

Establishing Duty and Breach of Duty Comes First

When most new clients consult with me, the first thing they are focused on is their injury. But, in fact, the legal analysis starts with the duty and the breach of duty. If we cannot establish a duty existed and that somehow it was breached, there can be no case, regardless of the severity of the injuries. Injuries are certainly important once you have established the duty and the breach of duty (and something pesky called causation), but they’re not the first part of the analysis.

Another perhaps more amusing example came from a disposition where I questioned the other driver in a collision and found out that she was driving too quickly at the time of the accident. She had just hired a babysitter and was in a hurry to go to her boyfriend’s house for a date. With her own testimony, we were able to establish that she breached her duty of care to our client by putting her own needs ahead of his by racing through an intersection, given the limited window of opportunity she had created.

Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney About Your Case

Facts like those given in the examples above don’t present themselves without investigation and questioning. That is why it’s essential to have an experienced lawyer by your side during the discovery process in your case. Many cases are won and lost during the discovery phase. And you can’t win a case unless you know what you’re looking for. That’s my duty to my clients.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in or around Port Jefferson, do not hesitate to contact The Law Office of Matthew Glassman. We’ll give you and your case the time and attention you deserve.

Please schedule a free initial consultation by calling (631) 406-4385 or submitting an online contact form today.