What is Standard of Care? - A Litmus Test for Everyday Decisions

July 8th, 2020
Nancy Sarmento Barkhordari
JD Barrister & Solicitor

As a general rule, businesses and professionals have a duty to provide safe and competent services to their patrons, suppliers, and customers. On both a professional level and in everyday activities, citizens should take care to ensure that their conduct does not cause harm to someone that they know, meet, or simply come across. 

To avoid injury to others, it is important to adhere to professional-norms, statute, and reasonableness in order to develop a system of care and vigilance. This sort of vigilance in avoiding harm to others is referred to as a standard of care in negligence cases. 

In this article, we examine the legal consequences associated with failing to discharge a duty of care or to meet the appropriate standard of care.  

How Does Standard of Care Apply in Our Everyday Lives?

A standard of care means the level of care, caution, and judgement that a reasonable person would exercise in a particular circumstance. The scope and nature of a standard of care in tort law will depend on a variety of factors. It is usually context-specific, considering the relationship between the parties, and the societal, legal, and professional norms imposed. Having said this, a standard of care will only exist where the relationship between the parties is one of foreseeability and proximity, establishing a duty of care.

A duty of care may exist where the relationship between the parties is:

  1. One of foreseeability (whether the person causing the injury should have reasonably foreseen the general consequences that would result because of his or her conduct); and,
  2. Proximity (the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant), in order to establish a duty of care.

For example, the relationship between drivers on a road, a doctor and patient, and an employer and employee can give rise to a duty of care in the following cases:

How is Standard of Care Determined?

Once a duty of care is established, the question will turn onto the standard of care owed from one person to the other. An assessment regarding the scope and nature of a standard of care is contextual, considering the nature of the relationship between the parties. 

For example, in the case of a medical doctor, the question of standard of care will require an understanding of the professional context, and determination of the responsibilities of the doctor. The answer may turn on statute, professional norms, professional recommendations, employer manuals, and the opinion of other physicians.  

Ordinarily, the type of conduct necessary to meet the standard of care is a fact-driven assessment that considers the following:

In essence, this is a standard of reasonableness. An inspection of manuals, policies, systems of inspection, and training are important to the determination of whether a business or professional has discharged their standard of care.

Litmus Test for Every-Day Decisions

Because the standard of care is established on a case by case basis, it is difficult to establish a one-size-fits-all test that will allow people, businesses, and professionals to determine the scope of their standard of care. 

There are some examples that can illustrate the interplay between the duty of care and standard of care in our everyday lives. Drivers owe a duty of care to fellow drivers, pedestrians, and passengers using the road with them. The duty of care requires that the driver not do anything that would cause foreseeable injury to the people using the road around them. The standard of care owed by the driver could involve adherence to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) regulations.

Another example may involve the duty of care owed by nursing home organizations and staff towards their residents. The standard of care may be based on shared practices within the industry, systems of vigilance, common sense, as well as statute. 

What Can I Do If A Standard of Care Has Been Breached?

If you are in a position where a business, organization, or individual hasn’t held up their end of the bargain, we’re here to help. Gosai Law is happy to provide you with a free consultation in order to determine the best way to move your case forward. Our lawyers specialize in acts of negligence such as breaches in standard of care, including claims involving medical malpracticecritical injuriesmotor vehicle accidents, and more. 

While our physical office location is currently closed, we are continuing to be an advocate for your case remotely. Please reach out to us at (905) 595-2225 or contact for more information.

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