In Part 1 of this article, we introduced the concepts of duty of care—the legal notion that we all have a responsibility to prevent our actions from causing harm to others, and that others have the same responsibility not to harm us—and negligence—what happens when, through recklessness or carelessness, someone fails to live up to their duty of care. Both of these concepts are critical components of Calgary personal injury law.
We also defined the basic difference between the duty of care you’re owed in public versus private spaces. In a public place, those around you don’t really have control over the environment and can only control hazards presented by their own actions—their duty of care only extends to their own behaviour. By contrast, a private property owner has control over the environment and has a duty of care to prevent environmental hazards—dangerous situations that make an accident and injuries more likely.
The law is a little more complex than it may sound at first, however.
Digging Deeper Into Private and Public Calgary Spaces
We mentioned businesses in Part 1; a private business that is open to the public, where anyone has access, can present legal complexities. The business owner has a duty to make sure the property is free from hazards like wet and slippery floors, tripping hazards, unbalanced shelves that might tip over, and so forth. Other shoppers in the store owe you the same duty of care that they would on a public street, however; it isn’t their job to control environmental hazards, but they are still responsible for their own behaviour.
Those responsible for public spaces can also be held accountable for environmental hazards that lead to injuries in a manner similar to private property owners. If a road is improperly maintained and/or improperly marked and you have an accident as a result, the City of Calgary could potentially be responsible for your injuries in the eyes of the law. An accident caused by another driver, meanwhile, is that driver’s responsibility—they neglected their public duty of care by driving unsafely, which is their own legal burden, not the city’s.
Private property owners also have a duty of care to prevent their property from creating hazards in public spaces. A neighbour mixing noxious chemicals in their garage can absolutely be held responsible if escaping fumes cause others to become ill or otherwise contribute to injuries that otherwise could have been avoided. Pet owners have a responsibility to prevent their pets from escaping and biting or otherwise causing injuries to someone walking down the street, and can be held responsible for this “environmental hazard” even if the injury takes place in public.
It can be a bit confusing, we know. The important thing to remember is that, in public and in private, everyone has a duty of care to exercise caution and prevent injuries to others, through their actions and through reasonable control of the environment when applicable.
Contact a Calgary Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If this all seems a little overwhelming, don’t worry—there’s no test, and this isn’t something you need to fully understand. Partner with an experienced Calgary personal injury lawyer, and they’ll have all the answers and insights you need.
For a free initial consultation, please contact our office today.