Duty of care is a legal obligation to protect others from harm.
For example, an employer has a duty of care to keep their employees safe.
A breach of duty of care that leads to injury can result in a personal injury claim being brought against those responsible.
In this guide, our specialist personal injury lawyers will explain how duty of care applies in personal injury claims.
- Who has a duty of care?
- Duty of care examples
- Employers’ duty of care
- Medical professionals’ duty of care
- Duty of care in the retail and hospitality sector
- Duty of care in education
- Duty of care for road users
- Duty of care in public places
- Duty of care negligence claims
Most of us have a duty of care towards others - a legal responsibility to keep others around us safe.
Whether you are a business owner, an employer, a doctor, or even a person driving or cycling to work, you have a legal responsibility to protect those who your actions may affect.
Donoghue v Stevenson
A landmark case in UK law that established duty of care can be seen in the 1932 legal case of Donoghue v Stevenson. In this case, Mrs Donoghue became unwell after drinking a ginger beer manufactured by Stevenson that contained a snail. The case established that manufacturers have a duty of care to their consumers.
Today, there are numerous types of duty of care that factor into personal injury claims, such as an employer’s duty of care to their employee, and a doctor’s duty of care to their patient. Below we explore some common duty of care breaches that we see in our personal injury cases.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees.
It is a legal requirement for employers to take reasonable steps to keep their employees as safe as possible at work. Appropriate and reasonable health and safety measures should be put in place to prevent employees from becoming ill or injured.
Ways that employers can safeguard staff include staff inductions, effective training, regular risk assessments, correct PPE and providing a safe environment which is free from avoidable dangers.
If an employer fails in their duty of care and an employee is injured at work, this can be considered employer negligence. In this situation, the employee is entitled to compensation, and can make an accident at work claim against their employer.
All medical professionals – whether they are a GP, doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional – have a medical duty of care to their patients. This means they are legally required to provide a standard of medical care that can reasonably be expected of someone in their role.
When medical professionals fail to meet their duty of care, consequences for a patient can be severe. For example, a misdiagnosis can mean that a patient does not receive appropriate treatment, making their condition worse.
Situations where medical practitioners fail in their duty of care are known as medical or clinical negligence. In these cases, the patient can bring a medical negligence claim.
Supermarkets, department stores, gyms, cafes, restaurants and other shops have a legal requirement to keep customers safe on their premises. Retail and hospitality organisations must take all reasonably practicable steps to keeping customers safe.
Reasonable measures to keep customers safe include removing unsafe obstructions, clearing up any liquid spillages promptly, meeting food hygiene standards, and using hazard signs when necessary.
If a customer has an accident in a retail or hospitality premises due to the business’ negligence, they may be able to make a public liability claim.
Schools and universities are legally responsible to take all reasonable steps to keep their students and staff safe from harm. As well as the usual health and safety measures, such as fire precautions and first aid provisions, this might involve implementing safeguarding measures to ensure their students’ safety and protect them from bullying and abuse.
If an educational institution fails in their duty of care to their students, they may be liable. For example, if lack of supervision leads to a young child being injured, the parent may bring a child accident claim against the school.
All road-users have a duty of care to try to protect others under the Road Traffic Act 1988. It means pedestrians, drivers, passengers, cyclists, motorcyclists and other road-users may be able to claim for compensation if they were injured in a road traffic accident (RTA) that was someone else’s fault.
If someone is injured in a space run by the local council, the council could be held responsible as they have a legal requirement to keep people safe on land and premises they are responsible for.
The council must maintain roads, pavements and council buildings to a reasonable standard depending on how much they are used. For example, in winter conditions residents can expect main roads and town centres to be gritted in order to avoid road accidents or people slipping on ice. However, it is not always reasonable to expect the council to grit seldom used side roads or paths.
If you have been injured in a space run by the council or local authority, a specialist personal injury solicitor will be able to advise you as to whether you have a valid claim.
If you’ve suffered an injury which was caused by a breach of duty of care, you could make a claim for personal injury compensation.
Establishing a negligence claim involves demonstrating that the person responsible owed a duty of care to the person injured, and that any breach of duty of care caused loss and or damage.
At Thompsons, our expert personal injury solicitors can help you make a claim on a no win, no fee basis. We’re here to make the claims process as easy and stress-free as possible.