Duty of Care: What Drivers Need to Know


All drivers on the road are expected to meet certain duties as a contract of some kind. When you accept your driver’s license, you are, in effect, signing a contract that gives you the privilege of driving a vehicle. In exchange for this privilege, you are expected to do your legal duties as a driver. This includes your safety and everybody on the road, including the pedestrians.

Duties of a Driver

In general, according to thetoplaw information source website,HR Legal Resources, you must drive safely to protect other drivers, their passengers, and pedestrians on the road. In detail, your other duties include the following:

Duties Covered By State Law

Driving laws differ in every state. For this reason, you must comply with your state’s driving and traffic laws. Common state-level duties include following right of way, driving under the influence of alcohol or prohibited drugs, and driving on the wrong side of the road.

Duty to Control Your Vehicle

When necessary, you have to stop your vehicle, pay attention to the road, and be alert while driving.

Duty to Be Constantly on the Lookout

Drivers must know the potential hazards of driving. Because of this, you also have to be constantly aware of what’s happening on the road as you drive.

Duty to Keep Your Vehicle in Good Condition

A vehicle with malfunctioning parts poses a risk on the road. They can cause accidents at any time. For this reason, you must maintain your car at all times. You are required to have a car that has properly functioning parts.

Duty to Drive at an Appropriate Speed

You must drive at a safe speed. Speed limits are consistently in place along roads to remind drivers of this duty.

Collectively, these duties are often referred to as a duty of care required from drivers.

Duty of Care

Consider this as an example: A car accident involves you and driver X. You rear-ended driver X’s car, causing minor injuries on both of you and damages to both your vehicles. Even though you didn’t intend the accident to happen, you can still be liable. If you are a reasonable driver, you would have been constantly on the lookout and aware of your environment in the first place. Simply put, you breached a duty of care.

According to the leading legal advice website, Nolo, the duty of care is often applied in situations where a person fails to act reasonably with the safety of other people in mind.

Going back to the example, upon inquiry from your insurance company, they found out your foot got stuck accidentally in your car’s flooring, which caused the accident. While others will sue the car mat company that developed that particular flooring, it doesn’t change the fact that you breached yet another duty of care.

Remember, you must maintain your car. As such, you should only source parts, including flooring, from the best to prevent accidents.

Nolo also stated that duty of care imposes a higher responsibility on drivers to ensure everybody’s safety. When this is breached, the legal theory becomes negligence.

Elements of Negligence

In your example, when negligence is mentioned, it means that driver X can claim negligence on your part because of a breach of duty.

According to HR Legal Resources, this is often used when there is a special relationship between the accused and the accuser, such as between doctor and patient, parent and child, and employer and employee.

In some cases, it applies to drivers because, as mentioned earlier, all drivers must keep everybody safe on the road, including each other.

Negligence can also be considered when there are breaches of duty, damages, and, unfortunately, in some cases, casualty. Take note that duty is apart from breach of duty. Duty means you owe a legal obligation to someone. Breach of duty is when you fail to do your duty.

Citing your example again, if driver X claims negligence, a legal fact finder will evaluate whether you breached your duty. They must find proof, in other words. With proof in hand, it’s up to the fact finder to decide whether driver X’s injuries were caused by your breach of duty.

On the other hand, negligence can also be claimed if a victim suffered either economic or non-economic damages because of an accident. These damages are physical and psychological injuries, lost time and pay from work, medical expenses, and property damage.

In summary, a victim can claim negligence if there is a breach of duty, injuries to the victim, and damages on the victim’s property. When negligence is proven, a victim can move forward with a personal injury lawsuit.

Be Careful When Driving

Although you can’t control other drivers, you can do it for yourself and the safety of your loved ones. To prevent any accidents and harm, always observe your duty of care.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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