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Breach of Duty Explained

The word ‘breach’ refers to the violation of a law or legal responsibility. It is one of the four elements of a negligence suit. In a negligence suit, you must prove another party breached their duty of care and caused your injury.

If someone’s negligence caused you injury, you might be entitled to monetary compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If you have legal questions, make sure to speak to an experienced attorney for help. If you’re ready to learn more, call our law offices at (617) 391-9001 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.

What Is a Duty?

A duty is a legal responsibility that someone has because of their profession, status, or activity. These duties arise from law or custom. For example, lawyers and doctors have many professional duties imposed on them by state licensing boards.

If a doctor or lawyer breaches their duty to their clients or patients, they could be liable for the victim’s losses. Likewise, all drivers are expected to drive safely and follow all traffic rules. Every licensed driver has a duty of care imposed on them by the state.

To hold someone liable for your injuries after an accident, you must establish they owed you a duty. If they breached or violated that duty, you might be able to hold them liable for your damages related to an accident.

What Is a Breach of Duty?

Once you establish that a negligent party owed you a duty, the next step is to show that they breached that duty. To determine whether a defendant breached a duty, a jury will evaluate whether they acted reasonably before injuring the plaintiff. This is known as the “reasonable person standard.”

A jury compares the defendant’s conduct to that of a reasonable person’s in similar circumstances. A reasonable person is a hypothetical person who uses common sense and good judgment to avoid injuring others.

If the defendant failed to act like a reasonable person and injured the plaintiff, the jury might find them negligent. For example, suppose a driver was texting and hits another driver. That driver may have breached their duty of care towards the other driver.

A reasonable person would know that texting while driving is dangerous and can cause a car accident. Therefore, a reasonable person would not text while driving.

How Does a Breach of Duty Work in a Negligence Case?

If you file a negligence claim, you will have to prove several factors to be successful. Negligence claims are common in car accident claims, slip-and-fall claims, and property damage claims.

The elements that must be proven in a negligence case are as follows:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty
  • The defendant breached their duty
  • The defendant caused harm to the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff suffered damages

Negligence cases require plaintiffs to prove that the defendant caused them injury by acting carelessly.

How a Breach of Duty Occurs in a Strict Liability Case

In some cases, a defendant can be held responsible through strict liability. Strict liability is different from negligence. In fact, it does not require proof of negligence.

Under strict liability, the defendant is automatically liable for engaging in certain conduct or violating certain laws. Strict liability does not require the defendant to have intended the harm.

Some examples of situations where a breach of duty amounts to strict liability include:

  • Abnormally dangerous activities: A person is strictly liable for injuries caused by abnormally dangerous activities. These activities involve a high degree of risk even when exercising caution and are uncommon in the area where the injury occurs. Explosives are an example of an abnormally dangerous activity.
  • Product liability: Manufacturers and distributors can be strictly liable for injuries that result from design defects, manufacturing defects, or marketing defects in their products.
  • Wild animal harm: If you have a wild animal as a pet, you are strictly liable for any harm that your wild animal causes to anyone.
  • Dog bites: In most states, a dog owner can be held strictly liable when their dog bites another person. In some jurisdictions, the dog must have displayed past vicious tendencies to trigger strict liability.

Some other situations might also give rise to strict liability.

How a Breach of Duty of Care Leads to a Personal Injury Case

When a party breaches a duty of care they had to an individual, their negligent actions can often lead to a personal injury case if the victim was injured or worse.

Oftentimes, the victim of the breach of the duty of care will want to seek compensation for the injuries and losses they incurred as a result. The goal of these personal injury cases is to provide the victim with the financial means to help them return to the physical, emotional, and financial state they were in before the accident occurred.

In order to prove that the at-fault party was involved in a breach of the duty of care, the victim must be able to prove the following four elements:

  • The existence of a duty of care
  • The breach of the duty of care
  • Injuries were incurred as a result of the breach of the duty of care
  • Those injuries resulted in the victim experiencing losses like medical bills or lost wages

If you have been injured in a personal injury accident that you believe was caused by a breach of a duty of care, it is important that you also understand who can have a duty of care.


The manufacturers of common products have a duty of care to take reasonable care as to ensure that their products will not inflict injury or harm on consumers. Manufacturers are obligated by law to consider the safety of consumers when developing the design, use, and distribution of their products.


Employers have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to avoid any risk of foreseeable injuries and harm that may befall their employees.

Property Owners

The law provides that property owners must provide reasonably safe premises for individuals that may enter onto their property.


Business owners or directors must make decisions that are in good faith to consider the well being of their employees and the public.

Medical Professionals

Medical professionals like doctors, surgeons, or nurses have a duty of care to protect their patients to the best of their abilities to avoid any damaging or life-threatening injuries when undergoing medical procedures.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?

When another party or entity is in breach of a duty they had to you that resulted in your injury or loss, you have the legal right to file a personal injury claim in the state of Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, victims of personal injury accidents have up to three years from the date of the accident to file their claim. This time period is referred to as the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations limits the amount of years after an accident or crime that a person may bring a lawsuit to court. In some personal injury cases, there may be exceptions to the three year rule, but generally it is important that you stick to this timeline in order to be legally eligible to file your claim.

Our knowledgeable personal injury lawyers have extensive experience working with the Massachusetts claims system and can help you ensure that you stick to all important deadlines concerning your claim.

When you file a personal injury claim, you have the opportunity to pursue fair compensation for the injuries and losses you have suffered as a result of the liable party’s breach of duty.

The damages you may be able to recover from your claim include:

Medical Expenses

If the responsible party’s actions led to an injury that has left you with a long road to recovery, you will likely have costly medical bills to pay for. Whether you have had to undergo surgeries or go to weekly doctor’s visits, these expenses can be crippling financially.

You deserve to be compensated for any medical expenses resulting from the breach of duty that caused you to become injured.

Lost Wages

If the breach of duty that has left you injured has prevented you from working, you should be compensated for all lost wages.

Lost Earning Potential

Some personal injury accidents leave victims with chronic injuries that may prevent them from ever working again. As a result, you should be compensated for all future income you may lose out on as a result.

Property Damage

If your property has been damaged in an accident, you should be given compensation for the cost to repair or replace the damaged items.

Pain and Suffering

You should be compensated for all physical, emotional, and psychological pain you have suffered as a result of the negligent party’s actions.

To get help filing your claim on time, it is important that you contact our team of trusted personal injury lawyers. When you choose to work with Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP, you will have access to a team of award-winning personal injury accident lawyers.

Our trusted legal team is led by our experienced co-managing partners, J. Tucker Merrigan and Peter M. Merrigan. J. Tucker Merrigan has been a co-managing partner of the firm for over a decade. He has been recognized for his work in the Massachusetts legal system with awards that include: Under 40, National Trial Lawyers; 2020-2021 Top Attorney Award.

Our other co-managing partner, Peter M. Merrigan, has been recognized for his work helping the communities of Boston: 2018 Top 40 Under 40, National Trial Lawyers; 2021 Massachusetts “Super Lawyer.”

Contact a Boston Personal Injury Attorney For Help

If you have been injured in an accident, then you probably have a lot of questions. An attorney can help you understand whether someone is liable for your damages after the accident.

They will walk you through the steps of proving negligence or strict liability. Additionally, they will gather evidence showing another party breached their duty of care and caused you injuries. Contact a personal injury attorney today for help. Call Sweeney Merrigan Law at (617) 391-9001 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.