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What Is a Duty to Warn?

When another person is at risk for physical, emotional, or mental injury, an individual has the duty to warn said person. The duty to warn arises from certain circumstances wherein the law of torts applies. If a person had the opportunity to prevent any kind of harm from occurring to another party or entity, the person is liable for whatever injuries the other may sustain.

The duty to warn is usually a burden carried by businesses that are required to inform consumers of any possible danger a product may place them in. Manufacturers must inform consumers if a certain product poses risks to them. This duty to warn can be manifest in a warning label commonly found in all products, even coffee drinks labeled with a caution that the beverage may be too hot to drink.

However, the duty to warn is widely practiced by mental health professionals. If an individual has a sever mental illness that may put him or her at risk as well as the other individuals around him or her, the mental health professional has the duty to warn any person who may be most susceptible to the dangers posed by the mentally ill patient. Law enforcement agencies must also be warned in order to prevent any untoward repercussions of ignorance.

It is difficult to apply the duty to warn in certain situations because privacy is also an issue. Mental health professionals need to exercise utmost discretion when fulfilling their duty to warn as the patient must be seriously ill and poses actual risk to others around him or her.

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