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November 22, 2022

Types of Negligence in California

Different types of negligence laws exist, with each state using laws they feel fit them the best, including comparative negligence, contributory negligence, ordinary negligence, and gross negligence. California used to follow the contributory negligence standard, but the California Supreme Court changed this in 1975 to follow comparative negligence instead. The case that led to this outcome was opened because the Supreme Court felt that contributory negligence’s concept of being “all-or-nothing” was unfair.

Negligence can be a complicated concept, and anyone who believes they were injured due to a negligent party should look into a possible personal injury claim. Consult with an injury attorney in California right away. 

What is Comparative Negligence?

California’s comparative negligence law, sometimes called comparative fault law, is when an individual injured in an accident has some blame for the situation but can still recover compensatory damages. The state operates on pure comparative negligence, not modified, meaning there is no bar or threshold to how much the party can recover. 

For example, if a person is 60% responsible for the accident, they will only be responsible for paying 60% of the damages. In a modified comparative negligence doctrine, they can only recover compensatory damages if they are 50% or more responsible for the accident. 

This doctrine is most applied in personal injury accidents in California, such as slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, and car accidents. The purpose of this law is to divide up the fault between all parties involved. The judge or jury decides how much of the fault is to be attributed to the plaintiff, and their compensatory damage is reduced from there. 

The defendant must claim that the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to their harm, but they need to be able to prove this. This doctrine is helpful in car accidents because, especially in an accident involving several vehicles, it is often hard to prove who is at fault, but it is easy to point fingers. 

Five Requirements Needed

For an action to be considered negligent and therefore have the comparative doctrine apply, there are normally five conditions that need to be met:

  • Proof that the defendant had a duty to oblige by
    • Example: if the defendant had to stop the car at a crosswalk based on pedestrian crossing signs/lights
  • Evidence that the defendant conducted a breach of duty
    • Example: the defendant did not stop at the pedestrian crossing 
  • Proof that the defendant’s breach of duty caused harm to the plaintiff
    • Example: the defendant’s action of not stopping at the crosswalk caused harm to a person that was walking by
  • Proof of harm that can be demonstrated
    • Example: the plaintiff now has medical expenses, lost wages, and more to cover
  • Evidence that the defendant should have been aware of their negligent behavior and the consequences it brought

If these requirements cannot be proved in a California court, it may be difficult to label the defendant’s action as negligent. 

An Oakland, CA Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You

We at Pointer & Buelna, LLP, Lawyers for the People, will review your negligence case and answer any questions you may have. Call us today at (510) 929-5400 or submit our contact form for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. Protect your rights after someone’s negligence led to an injury.

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