Understanding California Negligence Laws and Filing Negligence Claims

Understanding California Negligence Laws and Filing Negligence Claims

March 1, 2023

We understand how painful a personal injury lawsuit can be physically, emotionally, and financially. Under such circumstances, it’s important to find justice and seek compensation. To ensure you’re receiving fair representation, you should understand the basics of California personal injury negligence laws.

Negligence Explained

The Negligence law allows victims and their families to seek justice from parties that have hurt them. Understanding the concepts and terminology involved in these cases is important, as this will help you make the best decisions for your legal situation. This article will discuss the basics of personal injury negligence law.

Understanding California Negligence Laws

Personal injury negligence law is a branch of tort law that holds people responsible for civil wrongs they commit through careless behavior. These claims arise when a person or business fails to exercise reasonable care when they owe a duty to another person, which causes harm to the other person. It is a legal theory whereby a person is held liable for damages caused to another person due to carelessness or lack of reasonable care.

These claims are typically based on a breach of duty, which is a legal obligation to act reasonably to avoid causing harm to others. Generally, people are liable for harm caused if they fail to act with the same level of care that a reasonably prudent person would have taken in similar circumstances. Your California personal injury attorney at Avian Law Group will help you determine the at-fault party and put together your personal injury claim.

The claims may also arise from a breach of a specific duty, such as a professional or contractual duty. These claims are an important area of tort law because they allow injured parties to be compensated for their losses. When a person or business is found negligent, they may be required to pay damages to the injured party depending on proximate cause.Damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, wrongful death, pain and suffering, and other forms of compensation. These claims also help to discourage people and businesses from engaging in reckless and careless behavior, as they can be held accountable for their actions.

Types of Negligence

The most common types of these claims include the following:

Gross Negligence

It is defined as a deliberate act of recklessness that is so blatant and heinous that it shows an extreme disregard for the safety of other persons or property. It is considered a particularly severe form of carelessness and can be seen as willful and wanton misconduct.

For example, if a doctor made a mistake that could have been easily avoided and resulted in harm to a patient. It is important to note that for your case to hold up in court, the defendant must be aware of the risk that their actions could cause and be able to anticipate the consequences. These cases are typically more difficult to prove than cases of ordinary carelessness.

Contributory Negligence

It is a legal term used to describe a situation where an individual may be partially responsible for harm due to carelessness. This means that if a person negligently contributes to causing an injury or damage to another, they may have to bear some financial responsibility for their actions. For instance, if a person negligently crosses a busy road without looking and is hit by a car, they may be held partly responsible for the harm they suffered if the driver was not negligent.

Comparative Negligence

It is a legal defense used in personal injury cases when the plaintiff was partially at fault for the accident or injury. The court will consider the degree of the carelessness of both parties and assign a percentage of fault. This information is then used to determine the compensation the plaintiff will receive.

For instance, if the court determines that the plaintiff was 40% at fault, the defendant will only be responsible for the remaining 60% of the damages. It ensures that neither party is completely absolved of the fault and that the victim can still receive compensation despite their carelessness.

Vicarious Negligence

It occurs when an employer is held legally responsible for their employee’s actions if the employee acted within the scope of their employment when the harm occurred. It is important to note that an employer cannot be held liable for an employee’s actions if the employee acted outside the scope of their job or illegally.

For instance, if a delivery driver causes an accident, the delivery company may be held liable for the accident. In this instance, the company is liable for their employee’s carelessness because the driver acted within the scope of their job.

Elements of Negligence

In order to bring a successful claim under California law, four elements must be proven. These elements are duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

Duty of Care

It is the first element of carelessness and involves proving that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. The duty of care is an obligation to act in a way that does not cause harm and is different for each relationship.

For example, a doctor owes a higher duty of care to their patient than a driver may owe to a pedestrian. To prove a duty of care, the plaintiff must prove the nature of their relationship with the defendant and what the defendant was expected to do.

Breach of Duty

Once the plaintiff has proven a duty of care, they must prove that the defendant breached the duty. A breach of a duty of care occurs when the defendant fails to exercise the reasonable care they owed to the plaintiff, resulting in harm to the plaintiff. It must be proven that the defendant acted contrary to the level of care that would be reasonably expected in similar circumstances.


The plaintiff must also prove that their injury resulted from the defendant’s breach of their duty of care. Causation ensures that the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s harm and not for any other contributing factors. It must be proven that the defendant’s actions were the direct cause of the plaintiff’s harm.


Once the plaintiff has established that the defendant breached their duty of care and caused the injury, they must also prove that they suffered damages. To prove damages, the plaintiff must show evidence of economic and non-economic losses, such as medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. If a plaintiff can successfully prove these four elements, the defendant will be found liable for the harm caused, and the plaintiff may be entitled to compensation.

What to Expect In your Negligence Case

Settlements and verdicts can vary in California negligence cases. For example, it may be determined that both parties involved, the plaintiff and the defendant, are held responsible for the accident that occurred resulting in comparative fault. The concept of comparative negligence plays a key role in how damages are awarded.

California’s comparative negligence law is a legal doctrine that provides a way to divide up fault between all parties. The plaintiff’s damages are then reduced based on the plaintiff’s own negligence, which contributed to the accident, limiting the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover. For example, if the judge assigns 70% fault to the defendant and 30% to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may only be able to recover 70% of the damages, rather than the full 100%.

Personal injury law, fault law, and negligence law are referenced in these types of cases to determine the compensation amount for the plaintiff’s injuries, medical bills, and suffering. When seeking legal advice, be sure to find a personal injury lawyer who specializes in these practice areas such as our legal team here at Avian. Our law firm specializes in personal injury law and this includes all types of negligence law.

Personal injury negligence laws are complex and require an experienced attorney to ensure the case is handled properly. Don’t rely on insurance companies to make settlements for you. If you have been injured and wish to pursue a claim, contact us today to discuss your rights and options with a free consultation.

Posted by

Michael Avanesian

Michael Avanesian, the founder and driving force behind Avian Law Group, is a passionate and dedicated attorney with a strong background in personal injury law. As a partner at JT Legal Group, Michael led the growth of the personal injury practice from a single employee to a team of over ninety professionals, securing over $2 billion in settlements for clients in just three years.

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