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Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney / Blog / Personal Injury / The Duty To Keep You Safe: When Does It Exist?

The Duty To Keep You Safe: When Does It Exist?


Who has to protect you?

Sure, police, or the government may be entities that come to mind. But the answer to that seemingly simple question is more complex than you may think. And answering that question is the gateway to being able to prove a negligence case.

Understanding Duty

In any negligence case, to win the case, a victim has to show duty, beach, causation and damages. That first part—duty—answers the question of who has to protect you, and what level of security is owed to you.

Not everybody has an overriding obligation to protect everybody who may be remotely and tangentially injured by negligence.

Think of the power company. If the power goes out, people may be injured—someone may be injured when a stop light stops working, or someone may slip in their home when there are no lights. Does that mean that every single person can sue the power company when they are injured after a power outage?

The answer is generally no; the power company isn’t in the business of protecting people or keeping them from being injured. It would be almost ridiculous to make the power company liable to this extent.

Imagine that you cause a car accident, that causes a traffic jam. Because of the jam, someone waiting in traffic doesn’t get home to take their medicine on time, and they pass away. Can they sue you? The answer is no; we certainly have a duty not to injure people with our cars, but that duty does not extend to any and every other person who may be affected in any way by the accident.

What is Foreseeable?

One way to think of duty, is in terms of foreseeability; is it foreseeable, if you are negligent, that the victim could be injured—is the victim within the zone of risk, or class of people, that can be injured, when there is negligence,

Who Has the Duty?

Duty is sometimes easy to answer. For example, when something is left on a store’s floor, a customer who falls is obviously in the zone of risk.

Duty can also exist simply by the relationship between parties; anybody in a custodial setting will owe a duty to those that are being supervised. Think of a prison to the prisoners or a nursing home’s relationship to its residents, or daycare’s relationship to the children.

People can create duty, where none otherwise would exist.

If you park across the street from a store, and are injured in the parking lot, the store isn’t responsible-they have no duty to protect you, off of its premises, on someone else’s lot. But if the store tells you or encourages you to park in that lot (for example, if they need overflow parking), they may have a duty to protect you, even though you are technically off of their property.

Contact our Rhode Island personal injury and accident lawyers at Robert E. Craven & Associates at 401-453-2700 today to understand your negligence case.




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