When it comes to personal injury cases in California, one of the key elements that must be established is negligence. Negligence refers to a legal claim that alleges an individual’s injury was caused by another person’s carelessness or failure to exercise reasonable care. In order to seek compensation for your injuries, you have the burden of proof, meaning you must demonstrate that the opposing party was negligent and directly caused your injuries. Proving negligence can be a complex process, but there is a legal doctrine known as “negligence per se” that can make it easier to win your personal injury case.
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4 ELEMENTS OF NEGLIGENCE
To establish negligence in California, one typically needs to prove four elements:
Duty of care
Breach of that duty
EXAMPLE OF NEGLIGENCE
Let’s say Driver A is texting on their phone while driving, taking their eyes off the road frequently. In doing so, they fail to notice a red light ahead. As a result, Driver A runs the red light and collides with the vehicle driven by Driver B, who had the right of way.
In this scenario:
- Driver A’s act of driving his vehicle on the road establishes a duty of care towards Driver B as well as all other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the road.
- Driver A’s act of texting while driving, taking his eyes off the road frequently as well as subsequently running a red light constitutes a breach of duty of care towards Driver B.
- Driver A’s breach of duty caused the accident, because if Driver A did not run a red light, the accident would not have occurred.
- Lastly, Driver A caused driver B’s damages, which are the present and future pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses for present and future medical care, as well as loss of income, loss of earrings and loss of consortium.
This example highlights how negligence in a car accident can occur due to a driver’s failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to others on the road.
HOW TO PROVE NEGLIGENCE?
To prove negligence, evidence is key. This evidence can include:
- Witness Statements: Testimony from individuals who observed the incident.
- Documentation: Any relevant documents such as medical records, accident reports, or expert opinions.
- Photographic Evidence: Pictures of the scene, injuries, or property damage.
- Expert Testimony: Statements from professionals in the field to establish the standard of care and the defendant’s deviation from it.
Additionally, legal doctrines like “res ipsa loquitur” (the thing speaks for itself) may apply in some cases where the very occurrence of an accident implies negligence.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN NEGLIGENCE AND NEGLIGENCE PER SE
While the general standard of negligence requires proving four elements – duty, breach, causation, and damages – negligence per se can simplify the process by establishing the standard of care and duty of care through the violation of the law. By showing that the defendant violated a specific statute or regulation, you have already demonstrated their breach of duty.
However, it’s important to note that negligence per se is a rebuttable presumption. This means that the defendant has the right to present evidence to counter the presumption of negligence. They may argue that their actions were still reasonable given the circumstances or that they had a valid excuse for violating the law.
BURDEN OF PROOF
To successfully establish a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached their duty of care by failing to exercise the care expected in similar circumstances. The plaintiff must illustrate how the defendant’s actions, or lack thereof, posed a foreseeable risk of harm, directly resulting in the plaintiff’s injury.
NEGLIGENCE AND THE ’REASONABLE PERSON’
Negligence law often relies on the ‘reasonable person’ standard—a benchmark for assessing behavior in a given situation. It represents the expected level of care, judgment, and caution an average, prudent person would exercise. Courts determine negligence by evaluating if someone’s actions deviated from what a reasonable person would do, leading to harm to another party. This standard considers various factors like expertise, knowledge, and the specific circumstances involved.
4 TYPES OF NEGLIGENCE
Negligence in law varies—from extreme recklessness like gross negligence to shared fault in comparative and contributory negligence, and the linked responsibilities of vicarious negligence. Understanding these types is key to grasping legal accountability.
Gross negligence goes beyond ordinary carelessness, showing a blatant disregard for others’ safety. It involves actions so reckless and indifferent that they suggest a deliberate disregard for the well-being of others.
In tort cases, comparative negligence adjusts damages based on each party’s contribution to the negligence. If both the injured person and the defendant share fault, the court assigns percentages of responsibility. For instance, if the defendant is 60% at fault and the plaintiff 40%, the plaintiff might receive 60% of the damages.
Contributory negligence, a common law principle, bars plaintiffs from recovery if their negligence contributed to the harm. However, in many jurisdictions, comparative negligence has replaced this rule, allowing for a proportional sharing of fault and enabling the injured party to seek compensation even if they share some responsibility.
Vicarious negligence, also known as imputed negligence, holds one party accountable for another’s negligent actions based on their relationship or association.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEGAL REPRESENTATION
Navigating the legal complexities of a personal injury case, including proving negligence, can be challenging. That’s why it’s crucial to seek the assistance of a highly qualified personal injury lawyer at Bojat Law Group, an experienced attorney who will help you gather the necessary evidence, establish negligence, and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate the accident, review police reports, obtain witness statements, gather medical records, and consult with experts to strengthen your case. They will also guide you through the legal process, representing your best interests and ensuring your rights are protected.