If you have been involved in an accident and think it was the other driver’s fault, you may be able to get compensation from their insurance company. However, in many states you need to prove that the other driver was negligent. Sometimes this is relatively easy, but it can also be very complicated and difficult.
Contact The JLF Firm in California to request a case examination from southern California auto accident attorney who can gather evidence of the other driver’s negligence.
What is Negligence?
The legal definition of negligence is a failure to behave with the level of care that one would expect from the average person in those circumstances. This is typically an action, such as running a red light.
However, someone can also be guilty of negligence by omission, meaning that they had a duty to act and did not. An example of this would be a driver not fixing a brake light that they knew was not functioning. Omission is a lot harder to prove.
A person also has to have a “duty of care” towards you, but this is relatively easy to establish as people generally have a duty to try and drive safely. There also has to be some form of injury or damage.
Basically, if somebody runs a red light and hits you, that is fairly easily to demonstrate as negligence. If they hit a piece of black ice while driving at a safe speed for the conditions, it is less clear-cut that this is an act of negligence.
What Are Some Examples of Driver Negligence?
There are many ways in which a driver might be negligent. Some examples include:
- Driving too fast for the current conditions, such as if visibility is reduced
- Running a red light
- Failing to properly maintain the vehicle
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In some situations this may include prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Driving while excessively tired/fatigued
- Driving on the wrong side of the road, or the wrong way down a one-way street
- Texting or calling while driving
- Aggressive driving and/or “road rage”
- Leaving the scene (hit-and-run)
Some of these, such as driving under the influence or texting while driving may also be crimes in the state you are in. This makes it vastly easier to prove negligence. Other things can be much harder to demonstrate, such as driver fatigue or failure to maintain the vehicle.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Some states, including California, follow the rule of comparative negligence. Specifically, California is a “pure comparative negligence” state. Comparative negligence means that the court will assess the degree to which each party is at fault.
A victim’s damages will be reduced by the amount the court decides the plaintiff is at fault for the accident.
California requires that you demonstrate negligence by the following rules:
- The defendant had a duty, in this case the duty to drive safely.
- The defendant breached said duty.
- Their actions caused your injuries
- Their actions were the proximate cause of your injuries.
- You suffered actual damages.
If someone is hit by a car while crossing the road, breaks their leg in three places and is unable to work for three months, and the driver is found to be negligent, then their insurance will cover for the lost wages.
However, the court will also look at the plaintiff’s actions. If they crossed in the crosswalk, with the light, then the driver may be responsible for 100% of the cost. If the victim was jaywalking, however, then the award will be reduced, perhaps substantially, because the court will argue that jaywalking is also negligence and thus the victim was partially responsible for their own injuries.
A pedestrian who runs out in front of a car wearing a dark jacket at night may get no damages at all.
Some states limit damages, but California does not.
How to Demonstrate Negligence in a Car Accident
First of all, any accident in which there is an injury should be reported to the police. You should also talk to any witnesses to the incident. Having witnesses who can speak to what happened is very important for demonstrating negligence. If the other driver leaves the scene, they can also help identify the vehicle and track them down.
Make sure to exchange insurance details if they do stay at the scene. One key thing not to do is say you were not injured.
Take photos of any damage to your vehicle. The police may also be able to check surveillance footage from nearby cameras if there are any.
Never, under any circumstances, admit that the accident was your fault.
What To Do If Somebody Was Negligent
If you were in an accident that resulted in significant injuries or damage, you should engage a qualified auto accident attorney right away. Because California is a pure comparative negligence state, you are likely to end up in aggressive negotiations.
Most of these cases do not go to court, because most insurance companies will eventually agree to settle if you have a good lawyer
File a Claim Against a Negligent Driver With The JLF Firm’s Help
You should contact an attorney right after the accident so we can help you negotiate with insurance companies and if necessary prepare for a court case. Our experienced car accident lawyers at The JLF Firm can help you determine negligence and get the compensation you deserve.
California Negligence Law FAQs
What are the elements of negligence in California?
The elements of negligence are a duty of care, breach of that duty, that said breach caused the accident, that the injury caused was directly associated with the breach, and that real damage was done.
What kind of damages can you claim?
You can claim damage to cover medical bills, property damage, lost wages, additional household expenses (such as having to get delivery because you can’t cook, and pain and suffering.
What is comparative negligence?
Comparative negligence means that a plaintiff’s damages will be reduced by the amount a court or insurance companies determine they were responsible for the accident.