Negligence is the fuel that makes personal injury cases run. Negligence is caused by a serious mistake, but not all serious mistakes are negligent. Negligence is how the law separates errors that have legal and financial consequences and those that do not.
Callaway & Wolf has helped clients with negligence claims since the firm opened 26 years ago. We provide individual, attentive, and conscientious legal services to those seriously injured in accidents from our offices in San Francisco and Oakland. If another party caused your injury, call Callaway & Wolf today at 415-541-0300 to schedule a free consultation.
California law lays out the basics for negligence: “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…” Over the years, state courts have filled in the details of what’s needed for a successful negligence case.
The elements of a negligence lawsuit include:
- A legal duty to use due or ordinary care
- Failing to use due care or breaching that legal duty
- The breach is the factual and legal (or proximate) cause of your injury
- You suffered damages (the harm you suffered measured in dollars) as a result
Elements Of A Negligence Lawsuit
A Legal Duty To Use Due Or Ordinary Care
The need for the defendant (the party sued) to use ordinary care in the situation can be imposed by law, be assumed by the defendant, or exist because there’s a special relationship between the plaintiff (you, the party filing the lawsuit) and the defendant. Since it’s a question of law, the judge in your case decides whether or not the defendant owed you such a duty.
Since each case is unique, there’s no set standard of care. But there is a general rule that to avoid liability, the defendant must act as a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances. Actions that might be considered ordinary care in one case might be seen as negligent in another.
In vehicle accident cases, the duty may be to do certain things (drive in a reasonably safe manner in a reasonably safe vehicle) or not do certain things (drive over the speed limit, while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol) or a combination of the two, depending on the circumstances. It must be established these duties are to benefit you as someone driving near the person on the roadway.
Failing To Use Due Care Or Breaching That Legal Duty
A breach is the failure to meet the standard of care given the situation. It’s a factual issue the jury needs to decide. Did the defendant drive too fast for conditions? Did the mechanic fail to repair the truck’s brakes properly?
The Breach Is The Factual And Legal (Or Proximate) Cause Of Your Injury
The judge would decide the standard of care the defendant needed to follow in the situation. It’s up to the jury to apply that to the facts as they find them. There must be a direct connection between the defendant’s breach and your injury. Defendant’s hit you while you crossed the street, striking your legs and injuring them. If you claim a physical limitation, a defendant might claim you had a condition before that accident that caused the limitation, not the accident.
You Suffered Damages (The Harm You Suffered Measured In Dollars) As A Result
There are two categories of compensatory or actual damages, special (economic damages) and general (non-economic damages). A damages award should restore you to the position you had before the accident.
Special damages are out-of-pocket losses (medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, property damage, lost earnings, and the loss of future earning capacity because of continuing disability). They include costs incurred since the accident and those expected in the future.
General damages are intangible losses like physical pain, suffering, mental anguish, depression, anxiety, and your injuries’ impact on your relationships. Putting a dollar value on these losses is up to the jury.
In rare cases of extreme negligence—recklessness–punitive damages may be awarded. They aren’t meant to compensate you for the harm you endured, but to punish the defendant and discourage them, and others like them, from doing similar things in the future.
Get The Help You Need From Attorneys You Can Trust
Negligence could apply to virtually any situation where an accident caused injuries, including those involving pedestrians, bicyclists, lack of proper security, and elevator accidents.
If you’re suffered injuries because of another’s negligence, Callaway & Wolf attorneys can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation, and since we work on a contingency fee basis, there’s no risk to you. Call us at 415-541-0300 today to set up an appointment at our San Francisco or Oakland office so we can talk about your accident, your injuries, California law, and your best options for moving forward.