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Private and Public Duty of Care in Calgary Personal Injury Cases: Part 1

Posted in: Blog // Written on behalf of Cuming & Gillespie
July 21, 2016

As a plaintiff-only personal injury and medical malpractice firm, the legal team here at Cuming & Gillespie works every day with Calgary citizens who have been seriously injured. These injuries can make it difficult or even impossible for our clients to work and earn a living, to maintain normal daily activities, and to feel like a productive part of their families and the Calgary community at large.

Not all serious injuries are grounds for a personal injury or medical malpractice claim, however. Our clients have been injured and had their lives impacted by someone else’s carelessness or recklessness—what the law calls negligence. Demonstrating that someone’s negligence was a key factor in causing an injury is an important element in every personal injury case, and one of the first things a Calgary personal injury lawyer will try to establish when reviewing a new case.

The legal concept of negligence is directly related to what’s called the duty of care. We all have a certain duty of care in our actions, and we are all owed a duty of care by others—we have to take care not to do things that are likely to cause harm to other people, and other people need to take the same care to protect us. When someone fails to live up to that duty of care, they have been negligent, and they can be held responsible for any injuries that occur as a result.

It seems simple enough, but establishing how far the duty of care extends and when negligence has occurred can be quite complex, especially when comparing the duty of care owed in public versus private situations.

Defining Public and Private Spaces in Calgary Personal Injury Cases

The duty of care you are owed by people out in public—while driving on Calgary’s roads, walking along the sidewalk, and in some instances shopping at the store or visiting another business that is open to the public—is very different from the duty of care you are owed when you are on someone else’s private property. A business is also private property, technically; the business owner owes you a duty of care as the property owner, however other shoppers owe you the same basic duty of care as they do in public.

See how tricky it can get?

Here’s a simple way to think about it: if you’re in a space where those around you don’t really have control over the environment, you’re in “public” and those around you owe you a duty of care only insofar as their behaviour. If you’re in a space where someone does have the ability to affect or control the environment, they have a duty of care to make sure that environment is free from hazards and situations that might lead to injuries.

Questions? Contact a Calgary Personal Injury Lawyer Today!

We’ll continue looking at the difference between the duty of care you’re owed in public and in private in Part 2 of this article. If you have questions about your own unique Calgary personal injury case, please contact one of our experienced lawyers today.

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