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What Is the Difference Between Negligence & Duty of Care?

Updated March 21, 2017

If you are involved in a medical profession or are responsible for the welfare of individuals while you are working with them, then you may have obligatory legal considerations, such as preventing gross negligence and fulfilling your duty to care. A professional relationship is mainly defined by one where money is exchanged for your services.

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Duty of Care

Duty of care is defined by a professional's obligation to act in the best interest of a paying client's medical and psychological health. If money exchanges hands and the professional has the training to care for a client in a certain capacity, then she is legally obligated to do so. Professionals must act within the parameters set forth by their training. For example, someone with a Wilderness First Responder can fix a dislocated shoulder but he cannot give a client an intravenous injection.

Gross Negligence

In most cases, negligence means that a professional has performed a blatant violation of her legal duty to care for an individual who is under her supervision. Negligence can mean that a certain service was not given, or that someone performed a service or treatment in a way that did not meet the standard of care that is in accordance with his training. Gross negligence must be proven in a court of law to be a conscious and deliberate disregard of a professional's duty of care.


A paid professional must have a duty of care to determine whether or not she has been negligent. In tort law, gross negligence must be proven for a lawsuit to occur. In most cases, professional health care workers and individuals with a certain level of training are held accountable by law to provide the best care possible that is in accordance with their training and the standard of care among other professionals.

Other Legal Considerations

In matters of tort law, three considerations must be proven before a case for negligence can be established. The case must prove that a duty of care was owed, that duty of care was breached and that specific damages occurred as a result of the breach of that duty. It is also necessary that the standard of care must be breached to establish negligence, which means that a professional did not care for his patient in the same way that other professionals have cared for similar patients in the past.

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About the Author

David McGuffin

David McGuffin is a writer from Asheville, N.C. and began writing professionally in 2009. He has Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and Montreat College in history and music, and a Bachelor of Science in outdoor education. McGuffin is recognized as an Undergraduate Research Scholar for publishing original research on postmodern music theory and analysis.

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