How Negligence Claims Work in California Pt 1

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In the legal sense, negligence can be described as a failure to exercise reasonable care towards preventing harm befalling oneself or others. That means a person can be deemed to have been negligent if they failed to act in a demanding situation, or did something which a reasonably careful person would not have done in their stead. As any personal injury lawyer can tell you, there are four elements to proving negligence in a court of law.

  • Duty: The defendant may have had a legal responsibility to act in a specific way towards preventing the plaintiff’s loss. Such duties are imposed by statute and even by common practices, not to mention dictated by the idea of what a reasonable person could and should have done in the same shoes.
  • Breach: The court would examine whether the defendant in any way violated or breached their duty which entailed acting in a certain way in a specific circumstance, or not acting at all.
  • Causation: It is vital to the case whether or not a breach of duty from the defendant’s side caused damage or injury to the claimant, which could include even emotional harm.
  • Damages: The court would look at whether the claimant suffered monetary or emotional loss as a result of this, or any physical loss which caused them to lose wages or a livelihood altogether.

Proving Negligence under California Law

Duty: According to Civil Code section 1714 of California law, it is legally held that “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.” There is a general duty placed on each person (subjected to factors like age, expertise, and experience), to act reasonably and in such a way as to not cause harm to other people.

The “duty” constituent of negligence owes to this general concept. On top of that, you also see duties which stem from “special relationships”. For instance, it is the duty of an on-duty lifeguard to do everything in their power to save a drowning or otherwise endangered swimmer; a “common carrier” is supposed to safely relay passengers to their destinations, and a landlord must perform the needed maintenance to make sure their property is safe for inhabitation by tenants, and for visits by any guests these people may have.

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