One person’s negligence can change another person’s life in the blink of an eye. A distracted driver reading a text can cause a crash that leaves another driver with debilitating, life-altering injuries. Even if the distracted driver never meant to injure anyone, California law still holds them accountable for the consequences of their actions because of negligence.
Accidents happen every day that aren’t anyone’s fault. But negligence goes beyond a simple accident. When negligence is involved, that means that someone is at fault. And that means you can hold that person legally responsible for the results, including injuries.
Personal injury claims based on negligence are civil actions, not criminal cases. Criminal charges only apply when there’s criminal intent – in other words, someone meant to hurt you.
Most of the time, people don’t mean to injure each other. They get distracted, make a mistake, overlook something, or fail to put in the effort necessary to avoid injuries. They don’t mean to hurt you, but their actions cause you to get injured anyway. Sometimes, the “person” responsible is a company that puts a defective product out on the market.
By filing a personal injury lawsuit against the person or company who caused your injuries, you can get financial compensation to cover your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and personal pain and suffering. If someone was so negligent that they acted with extreme carelessness or recklessness, they may have to pay you punitive damages as punishment.
What Must You Prove to Win a Negligence Case?
Essentially, negligence is a legal version of a social contract. There are certain unspoken standards and expectations we have of each other as we move through the world. Negligence happens when someone drops the ball and fails to live up to these standards.
- We expect to be safe from unreasonable dangers, risks, and hazards unless warned
- We expect companies to put out safe (not defective) products on the market
- We expect others to follow traffic laws and basic driver safety when on the road
Some of these rules and expectations are put into writing as laws and regulations – for example, you must stop at all red lights according to traffic laws. But other expectations are unsaid – we simply expect to be treated in a way that most reasonable people would expect to be treated. This is called the reasonable person standard in the legal world.
What a reasonable person would do depends on the situation, so the standard can also change. For example, a trained surgeon in the operating room would be held to a much higher standard compared to a bystander on the street with no medical training. This “reasonable person standard” is the legal duty that we all owe to each other. For example:
- Property owners have a legal duty to keep their premises safe for visitors by fixing dangerous conditions, inspecting the property regularly, or posting warning signs
- Manufacturing companies have a legal duty to describe their products accurately, post warnings when necessary, and create products that are safe to use as intended
- Drivers have a legal duty to stop at stop signs and yield to pedestrians.
- Trucking companies have a legal duty to stop their drivers from working while fatigued.
If someone fails to live up to their legal duties, they could be held liable for negligence.
What Are the 4 Elements of Negligence?
If you have a personal injury case based on negligence, an experienced California personal injury lawyer can help you prove your claim and maximize your recovery. Your attorney can help you establish each of the elements you need to win your case:
- The person or company who injured you owed you a legal duty of care,
- They breached this standard of care in some way,
- Their actions (or lack of action) actually caused your injuries, and
- You suffered actual damages as a result of their actions.
Even if you haven’t filed a personal injury lawsuit, you could have a personal injury claim against an insurance company – for example, the insurance company of a driver who rear-ended you. Unfortunately, insurance companies are more interested in profits than paying out claims, so they often use tricks to deny your claims or lower the amount of compensation you get. Those tricks don’t work when you have an experienced lawyer on your side.
What Is the Most Difficult Element of Negligence to Prove?
Causation is usually the most difficult part of a negligence case to prove. A defendant who’s trying to avoid liability in a personal injury case will often debate the facts that prove causation. That’s why it’s important to start gathering evidence and documenting your injuries as soon as possible after an accident or incident that causes you to get injured.
What Are the Legal Defenses to Negligence?
A defendant may also claim that they never owed you a legal duty of care or that they never breached their duty. This part of a personal injury case can get quite complicated, as it involves more legal technicalities of what it means to be a “reasonable person” in your situation.
At that point, a good personal injury lawyer can put forward the best arguments to defeat the defense’s position. But that’s not all – a good attorney will also push for you to recover as much in damages as possible based on your losses not just in the present but in the future, too.
Ultimately, the goal of a personal injury claim is to “make you whole” as if the negligence never happened. Actions cannot be undone, so the law compensates injury victims with financial recovery. Your personal injury settlement should cover all of your expenses and losses related to your injury, including expected losses years or decades down the line. Calculating your damages accurately is the final critical part of a personal injury case.
When you work with an experienced attorney on your personal injury claim, you know that you have someone in your corner looking out for your best interests at all times. You don’t have to worry about how to prove negligence because your lawyer can put together the strongest possible case on your behalf. When you work on a contingency fee basis with your attorney, they are just as invested in the success of your case as you are.
At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, we can help. Contact us now to get started with your free case consultation. You don’t pay us unless we win your case.