California law defines negligence as the failure to use reasonable care to avoid harming oneself or others, which may also be described as failing to provide a duty of care. California law recognizes that everyone owes a certain general duty of care to others. Then, in addition to owing a general duty of care, some people owe a special duty of care due to their relationship to others. For example, operators of common carriers, such as busses or airplanes, owe a particularly high duty of care to their passengers.
When a person breaches a duty of care, this could be considered negligent in the eyes of the law. If this negligence causes harm to another party, the negligent party may be found legally liable for the harmed party’s losses. Therefore, the harmed party may be able to recover damages from the negligent party through a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Each state has its own system governing how negligence affects liability in accident cases and other tort cases. California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that fault in a California negligence case can be assigned to more than one party. When more than one party is at fault in a California negligence case, liability is assigned in percentages.
It’s important for California injury victims to understand pure comparative negligence because it allows victims who are partially at fault for their injuries to pursue damages regardless. In some states, any percentage of fault disqualifies an injury victim from damages. In other states, the injury victim’s percentage of fault has to be below a certain number in order for them to have legal recourse. However, in California, as long as a plaintiff is not entirely at fault for their losses, they can still seek damages from other at-fault parties. They will just have these damages reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff has $100,000 in damages but is 20% at fault for their losses, they could still pursue $80,000 from other at-fault parties.
If you are an injury victim and are partially at fault for the incident that caused your injury, expert legal representation can be invaluable. A personal injury lawyer can work to furnish proof of each involved party’s negligence, and therefore liability, in order to ensure that their client is not held liable for a higher percentage of fault than would be fair and accurate.
In order to successfully prove negligence and recover damages in a personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove:
An experienced attorney that specializes in cases involving negligence can help their client furnish all available proof of these four elements in order to create the strongest possible case. They can also prepare to refute likely defenses from the at-fault party, such as these common defenses:
A personal injury lawyer can conduct their own investigation in order to prove who is truly liable for an injury and have evidence ready to show fault in the case. Additionally, if one of these defenses-- that the plaintiff caused their own injury-- is partially true, but not completely true, a personal injury attorney can help their client prove their percentage of fault in order to ensure that they are not assigned any more fault than would be appropriate.
The ways in which negligence can cause harm are as numerous and varied as the ways in which a person or entity can be negligent. Some examples of more common types of negligence in personal injury cases include:
Our expert personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers can handle negligence cases that involve a variety of circumstances, including:
When a person dies due to the negligence of another party, certain surviving family members may be entitled to recover compensation for their losses by filing a wrongful death claim. California law states that plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim may recover “just” damages. What is “just” may vary widely depending on the circumstances involved in each unique wrongful death claim. Some examples of damages that are often available in a wrongful death claim include:
Surviving family members can recover a variety of damages by filing a wrongful death claim, but it’s important to note that there are certain damages that are unavailable in a wrongful death case. Surviving family members can only recover compensation for their losses, not the decedent’s personal losses. For example, surviving family members cannot recover compensation for the pain their loved one experienced before their death or for the medical bills their loved one accrued before their death. However, family members may be able to recover these types of damages by filing a survival action on behalf of the decedent’s estate.