The basic concept behind personal injury law is simple: if your actions cause real harm to someone else’s body, you should compensate them for the costs of their injuries. In practice, personal injury lawsuits in Calgary and elsewhere are far more complex. What constitutes actionable harm? When does the fault actually lay with the injury victim rather than the person that might have directly caused the injury? How much compensation is an injury victim entitled to, and for what reasons?

To help our clients and other interested Calgary citizens better understand personal injury law and lawsuits, we’ll be posting a series of articles here that define basic concepts and terms. Every personal injury case is unique, and the general information provided here won’t give you an entirely clear idea of your case’s merits or its chances in a Calgary courtroom, but it will help you become more informed about your rights and your responsibilities when it comes to accidents and personal injury here in Calgary.

Duty of Care in the Eyes of the Law

One of legal concepts that is central to every personal injury lawsuit in Calgary is the idea of a “duty of care.” This term comes to us from English Common Law—law established by centuries of court cases in England and then in other Commonwealth countries—and simply means that the defendant owed the plaintiff attention and consideration in their actions.

Establishing a duty of care is the first step in building a personal injury case.

Whether or not a duty of care exists depends on the situation. When you’re simply walking down the sidewalk in one of Calgary’s residential neighbourhoods, you don’t really have a duty of care to anyone: you’re on a public street that you’re entitled to be on, you aren’t carrying anything dangerous or operating a high-speed vehicle, and your behaviour—walking—is exactly what’s expected on a sidewalk. Your ability to cause a serious injury is practically non-existent, and you aren’t responsible for the sidewalk environment, so no duty of care exists.

When you’re driving a car down Calgary’s streets, your potential to cause a serious injury to someone else is much higher. You’re required to have obtained a driver’s license, meaning you presumably know the rules of the road, and there are rules you’ve agreed to adhere to that are part of establishing a duty of care. You also need to maintain enough awareness of your environment and control of your vehicle to prevent an accident; if you cause or contribute to a collision you have failed to live up to your duty of care and you can be held wholly or partially liable for any personal injuries that result from the accident.

There are also special duties of care involving certain professions, incidents that occur on private property, manufacturing activities, and more. Legislation, industry-adopted regulations and guidelines, and case law can all contribute to special duties of care in specific scenarios, and can all impact your liability—or the liability of those who might have injured you.

More Information on Duty of Care and Calgary Personal Injury Law

Future articles published here will explore duty of care in greater depth, as well as defining other key concepts in personal injury law. In the meantime, if you have questions regarding an existing or potential personal injury case in the Calgary area, call Calgary personal injury lawyers Cuming & Gillespie LLP today.