Personal injury lawsuits in Nevada typically focus on the negligence of the person who is allegedly responsible for the injury. In a negligence case, a plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff (or the injured person, if the plaintiff is suing on their behalf) a duty of care that the defendant breached, leading to the injury and ultimately to the plaintiff’s damages. But what is a duty of care, and when does it arise?
Sources of the duty of care in Nevada
At the most abstract, the duty of care is an obligation to take reasonable actions to prevent others from being injured. In Nevada, a duty of care only exists if it has been defined in a statute or by the courts. In other words, a personal injury plaintiff needs to find an existing legal basis for claiming that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
Nevada law imposes the duty of care on people in many different circumstances. Here are a few examples:
- People in the responsible role in certain well-defined special relationships owe a duty of care to their more vulnerable counterparts, such as innkeeper-guest, teacher-student, employer-employee, or hospital-patient. See Sparks v. Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, Inc., 127 Nev. 287, 289 (2011).
- Drivers have an obligation to obey traffic laws.
- Manufacturers have a duty to not make or sell defective products.
- Homeowners, landlords, and property managers have a duty of care to keep their properties reasonably safe for lawful visitors.
What are the limits of the duty of care?
In many personal injury cases, defendants argue that the circumstances surrounding the accident released them from their duty of care. For example, there may have been justification for the actions of a defendant who hurt someone while avoiding a worse injury. This argument often arises in car accidents, where a driver swerves to avoid hitting something and ends up hitting something else.
The injured person can also eliminate a defendant’s duty of care in various ways. Waivers of liability are a familiar example. Businesses that often put visitors into risky situations, like bungee jumping or sky diving, invariably require their clients to release the business from its duty of care. Likewise, the plaintiff can assume the responsibility for her own safety by deliberately putting herself into a dangerous situation. The assumption of risk is why we don’t see many personal injury cases arising from football injuries: the players accept the danger by playing the game.
The law also limits a defendant’s duty of care if the plaintiff was breaking the law at the time of the injury. A common example is a plaintiff who was injured while trespassing on the defendant’s property. But there are a few important exceptions that landowners need to keep in mind. Creating what’s called an “attractive nuisance” on a property gives landowners a duty of care toward children who trespass to explore it. Back yard pools and hot tubs are textbook examples of dangerous things that might attract a child onto a property; the property owner has a duty to ensure that the pool or tub is properly secured. Traps are another exception. Setting a harmful trap for trespassers is not only a violation of a landowner’s duty of care, it is also a crime.
We are Las Vegas personal injury attorneys
For more than 45 years Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients recover compensation for personal injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured and you have questions about your legal rights, our attorneys are available to discuss your options. Call us today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contact page.