Nearly all vehicle and personal injury accidents are based on the theory that someone’s negligence caused another person’s injury. In California, in order to win in a personal injury case, a plaintiff generally needs to prove three things:
The California Supreme Court has stated: “Because application of due care is inherently situational, the amount of care deemed reasonable in any particular case will vary, while at the same time the standard of conduct itself remains constant, i.e., due care commensurate with the risk posed by the conduct taking into consideration all relevant circumstances. [ii]
The term ‘substantial factor’ has not been judicially deﬁned with speciﬁcity, and indeed it has been observed that it is ‘neither possible nor desirable to reduce it to any lower terms.[iii]The substantial factor standard is a relatively broad one, requiring only that the contribution of the individual cause be more than negligible or theoretical. Thus, ‘a force which plays only an “inﬁnitesimal” or “theoretical” part in bringing about injury, damage, or loss is not a substantial factor’, but a very minor force that does cause harm is a substantial factor.[iv]
California Jury Instruction states: A substantial factor in causing harm is a factor that a reasonable person would consider to have contributed to the harm. It must be more than a remote or trivial factor. It does not have to be the only cause of the harm.
Children are judged by a special subjective standard. . . . They are only required to exercise that degree of care expected of children of like age, experience and intelligence.[v]
A person is not necessarily negligent just because he or she used alcohol [or drugs]. However, people who drink alcohol [or take drugs] must act just as carefully as those who do not.[vi]Mere consumption of alcohol is not negligence in and of itself: “The fact that a person when injured was intoxicated is not in itself evidence of contributory negligence, but it is a circumstance to be considered in determining whether his intoxication contributed to his injury.”[vii]
Gross negligence is the lack of any care or an extreme departure from what a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation to prevent harm to oneself or to others. A person can be grossly negligent by acting or by failing to act.[viii]California does not recognize a distinct cause of action for ‘gross negligence’ independent of a statutory basis.[ix]
A defendant may claim that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to his or her harm. To succeed on this claim, the defendant must prove both of the following:
1. That the Plaintiff was negligent; and
2. That the plaintiff’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing his or her harm.
If defendant proves both, the plaintiff’s damages are reduced by the jury’s determination of the percentage of the plaintiff’s responsibility. (See CACI 405)
Assumption of Risk. Express assumption occurs when the plaintiff, in advance, expressly consents . . . to relieve the defendant of an obligation of conduct toward him, and to take his chances of injury from a known risk arising from what the defendant is to do or leave undone. . . . The result is that . . . being under no duty, [the defendant] cannot be charged with negligence.[x]
Sudden Emergency. A person who, without negligence on his part, is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with peril, arising from either the actual presence, or the appearance, of imminent danger to himself or to others, is not expected nor required to use the same judgment and prudence that is required of him in the exercise of ordinary care in calmer and more deliberate moments.[xi]
Statute of Limitation. A plaintiff’s lawsuit must be filed within two years from the date he or she was harmed and damaged.
Injured and Need an Lawyer?
If you or someone you know has been injured by another person’s negligence, we invite you to call Brad at (619) 55O-I32I.
[i] Ladd v. County of San Mateo (1996) 12 Cal.4th 913, 917
[ii] Flowers v. Torrance Memorial Hospital Medical Center (1994) 8 Cal.4th 992, 997.
[iii] Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois, Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 953, 968–969
[iv] Bockrath v. Aldrich Chemical Co. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 71, 79
[v] Daun v. Truax (1961) 56 Cal.2d 647, 654
[vii] Coakley v. Ajuria (1930) 209 Cal. 745, 752
[ix] Eriksson v. Nunnink (2011) 191 Cal.App.4th 826, 856
[x] Saenz v. Whitewater Voyages, Inc. (1990) 226 Cal.App.3d 758, 764
[xi] Leo v. Dunham (1953) 41 Cal.2d 712, 714