Due care refers to the effort made by an ordinarily prudent or reasonable party to avoid harm to another, taking the circumstances into account. It refers to the level of judgment, care, prudence, determination, and activity that a person would reasonably be expected to do under particular circumstances. This standard is applied in a vast variety of contexts, whether the duty may be driving on the road or performing a background check. The precise definition is usually made on a case-by-case basis, judged upon the law and circumstances in each case.
Due care may also be referred to as due diligence. In corporate law, due diligence is the process of conducting an intensive investigation of a corporation as one of the first steps in a pending merger or acquisition. In a company acquisition, due diligence would include fully understanding all of the obligations of the company: debts, pending and potential lawsuits, leases, warranties, long-term customer agreements, employment contracts, distribution agreements, compensation arrangements, and so forth.