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What is 'duty' in a Houston motor vehicle accident?

We previously explored the basics of the legal theory of negligence in Texas in the context of accidents involving commercial vehicles. The same idea generally applies, however, to actions involving injuries following any motor vehicle crash. To recover compensation for their injuries, the victim usually will attempt to show that the other party had a duty to the victim, breached that duty, and that the breach was both the direct and foreseeable cause of actual damage that occurred to the victim. Today, we'll take a look at this idea of duty.

A legal duty is the responsibility one individual or entity owes to another to either do or refrain from doing something. This duty can be either general or contextual. For example, a driver may have a general duty to obey traffic laws and signals. More specifically, a driver on a certain street on a rainy day has a duty to not drive so fast that they can't stop the vehicle before hitting the car in front of them, even if that speed is not in excess of the posted limit.

The main question asked when attempting to determine if a duty was breached in such instances is whether the defendant acted as a 'reasonable person' would have in the same situation. This idealized reasonable person is one who always acts reasonably under the circumstances, given the same knowledge that the defendant had at the time. It does not take into account the subjective mindset or intent of the individual and is thus called an 'objective' standard. A breach of legal duty has occurred if the jury decides that the individual acted in a way this fictional reasonable person would not have, given the situation.

It should be remembered that this may seem simple, but this is only one part of a negligence case. Such actions can become much more complex when dealing with types of causation and other factors that may intertwine with the breach of duty. Those involved in a Texas motor vehicle accident may wish to consider consulting an experienced attorney to learn if they have a cause of action for their injuries.

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