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Duty of Care in Personal Injury Claims in California: What is a “Special Relationship”?

Were you hurt due to the careless, reckless, or improper conduct of another party? You may be entitled to financial compensation through a personal injury claim. In California, personal injury liability is typically based on the concept of negligence. There are four elements of negligence: 

  1. Duty of care; 
  2. Breach of duty; 
  3. Causation; and 
  4. Damages. 

In some cases, a duty of care can arise based on a “special relationship” between the defendant and the victim. Here, our Stockton personal injury attorney provides an in-depth review of key things to know about the duty of care and a “special relationship” in a personal injury claim in California. 

Understanding “Duty of Care” in California

Most personal injury claims in California are based on negligence. Duty of care is the first of four required legal elements in a negligence claim. Broadly explained, a duty of care is the legal responsibility one person or entity has to avoid causing harm to another. For instance, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely to prevent accidents. Along the same lines, property owners and businesses must maintain safe premises to protect customers and other invited guests Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI No. 1001). What exactly is required of the party that owes a duty of care to another party depends entirely on the specific circumstances of the case. 

What is a Special Relationship?

In the context of duty of care and personal injury claims in California the term “special relationship” refers to certain relationships that inherently involve a heightened level of responsibility or trust. Notably, the increased duty of care is typically imposed due to the vulnerability or dependence of one party upon the other. 

The relationship between the defendant and the injured victim (claimant/plaintiff) matters. With special relationships, the person or entity with authority or control must exercise a greater level of care and vigilance to prevent harm to the dependent or vulnerable party. Failure to do so could result in a serious injury. 

The Bottom Line: The determination of a special relationship is crucial in legal claims. Remember, California law imposes this enhanced duty to ensure that those in positions of responsibility act with utmost caution and prioritize the welfare and safety of those reliant upon them. 

The Most Common Examples of “Special Relationships”

Understanding what a “special relationship” is within the context of a personal injury claim in California, it is useful to know about the most common examples. Here are some different contexts within which a special relationship could arise in California:

  • Schools and Children: Children should be kept safe at school. Indeed, schools hold a significant duty of care towards their students. They are entrusted with the welfare, safety, and overall well-being of children during school hours and school-related activities. 
  • Coaches and Children: Similar to schools, coaches have a duty of care towards the children they train or mentor. Coaches and organizations are expected to ensure the safety of the children during practices and games, providing appropriate instruction and supervision.
  • Hospitals and Patients: The relationship between hospitals and patients is foundational in healthcare. Hospitals are obligated to provide patients with competent medical care, adhering to established standards and protocols. 
  • Caregiver and Elderly or Vulnerable Person: Caregivers, whether professional or familial, have a unique relationship with the elderly or vulnerable individuals they care for. They are tasked with ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of such persons
  • Common Carriers and Passengers: California, common carriers such as buses, trains, and airlines have a heightened duty of care toward their passengers. These carriers are legally required to ensure the utmost safety and well-being of passengers. 

Establishing the Duty of Care is a One Step—Proving a Breach Comes Next

It is important to emphasize that establishing the duty of care is a foundational aspect of a personal injury claim in Stockton. At its core, the duty of care sets the legal framework that delineates the defendant’s obligations. In other words, the duty of care is the cornerstone upon which liability is assessed. In California, the duty of care is based on the nature of the relationship between the involved parties—as is the case with special relationships.  

That being said, proving that a duty of care exists is only the beginning of the personal injury claims process in California. The next step—and a critical step at that—involves demonstrating that there has been a breach of this duty. Plaintiffs must provide compelling evidence that the defendant’s actions, or lack thereof, deviated from the accepted standards of care pertinent to the relationship, resulting in harm or injury. 

We Help Victims and Families Get Justice and the Maximum Compensation

Were you, your child, or your other loved one harmed by any other party’s carelessness or recklessness in California? Did the party in question hold you to a heightened duty of care upon the basis of a special relationship. These are complicated legal claims. At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, we go above and beyond to help our clients get justice for themselves and their families. Whether the defendant was a school, coach, youth sports organization, hospital, caregiver, or any other party, our Stockton personal injury attorneys are here to help. You may be entitled to recover damages for: 

  • Property loss; 
  • Emergency medical care;
  • Hospital bills; 
  • Other medical costs; 
  • Long-term medical needs; 
  • Lost wages; 
  • Diminishment of earnings; 
  • Pain and suffering; 
  • Mental distress;
  • Long-term disability; 
  • Physical impairment; 
  • Wrongful death; and
  • Punitive damages.  

Contact Our Stockton Personal Injury Lawyer Today

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, we are devoted to putting the rights and interests of victims first. If you have any questions or concerns about the duty of care and special relationships in personal injury claims, our legal team is more than ready to help. Contact us now for your free, fully private initial case evaluation. From our Stockton legal office, we advocate for injured victims throughout the whole region, including in Sacramento, Sutter Creek, Galt, and Manteca.