The ‘Duty-Risk Analysis’ and How It Can Help You Win Your Louisiana Personal Injury Case

There are many rules, doctrines, presumptions, balancing tests, and other concepts written across the law, including when it comes to personal injury law. That is why knowledgeable Louisiana injury attorneys are so important to your personal injury case. You certainly know the facts of your case. But do you know how to go about obtaining the evidence you need? Do you know which legal concepts will apply to your case? One concept that can affect many types of personal injury cases is the “duty-risk analysis.”

Last year, the Court of Appeal looked at a case involving a fast food customer injured by a cup of hot coffee. In making its decision in that matter, the appeals court pointed out the four factors that go into the duty-risk analysis:  “(1) Was the conduct in question a substantial factor in bringing about the harm to the plaintiff…? (2) Did the defendant(s) owe a duty to the plaintiff? (3) Was the duty breached? (4) Was the risk, and harm caused, within the scope of protection afforded by the duty breached?” In other words, did the defendant cause the injury, did the defendant have a duty to the plaintiff, did the defendant violate that duty, and was the injury suffered within a reasonable “scope of protection” of the duty?

In last year’s coffee case, the plaintiff lost because she admitted that she lifted the drink from a drink holder by grabbing the lid. The plaintiff had a problem with the first element, in that she lacked proof that the defendant’s conduct caused the injury.

There are, however, other cases in which, with stronger facts, this “duty-risk analysis” can be used effectively by a plaintiff in a personal injury case. Joseph and Joanna were the parents of a son who died when he drifted out of his lane onto the shoulder and slammed into the rear end of an 18-wheeler truck stopped along the shoulder of Interstate 10 outside Lafayette.

The parents sued the truck driver and the trucking company. At the trial’s conclusion, the jury found Jason 75% at fault and the defendants 25% at fault. On appeal, however, the parents were successful in having that court reverse the fault percentages. According to the opinion, the evidence presented during the trial demonstrated that the defendants had been grossly negligent, and this gross negligence led to the fatal crash.

Even though the evidence in the case made it abundantly clear that Jason drifted outside his lane and onto the shoulder when he collided with the 18-wheeler, that fact alone did not mean that Jason was solely (or even primarily) to blame or that the parents were not entitled to recover damages. In cases like this, it was the “duty-risk analysis” that dictated a result favoring the parents. The appeals court, in analyzing the truck company’s duty, pointed to a federal regulation that forbids trucking companies from putting trucks on the road “in such a condition as to likely cause an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle.” The broken-down truck Jason hit had an extensive history of problems, including 11 breakdowns in just one four-month span in 2001.

In other words, the company had a clear duty to keep its trucks properly maintained, and the evidence from this case made it clear that the company failed “to follow the plain language” of the regulation.

Further opening the trucking company up to potential liability was the proof that it put a very inexperienced driver with no means of communication in the event of a vehicular power failure behind the wheel of this truck with a long history of problems. This decision led to the driver’s inappropriate decision to deal with the breakdown by simply parking on the shoulder, going to sleep, and waiting until morning. (Louisiana law says that the shoulder of the highway is for “temporary emergency situations or as a recovery center in case of an inadvertent drift off the roadway.” It is not a place for stranded motorists.) The trucking company had a duty not to use the shoulder of the interstate as a parking area for its broken-down truck. The benefit of this duty extended not only to fully attentive drivers but also to drivers who were momentarily inattentive or careless.

If you’ve been hurt in a vehicle accident, don’t wait. Reach out right away to experienced injury attorneys. The diligent Louisiana truck accident attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm have spent many years fighting for injured people and are here to help with your case.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Pedestrian Recovers $80K Damages Award Despite Stepping in Front of Flatbed Truck, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, March 6, 2017

Tow Truck Crashes into Innocent Pedestrians in Mid-City Shopping Center, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Oct. 27, 2016

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