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What is Negligence? 

In California, a plaintiff must prove three things in order to recover damages: (1) The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; (2) the defendant breached the duty of care through negligence; and (3) the defendant's negligence contributed substantially to the harm (Causation).”).

When a person fails to act the way a reasonably careful person would in the same situation, that person is negligent.

“Duty of Care”

“Duty of Care”

A person owes others a "duty of care" under California personal injury law. Teachers and child care centers, for instance, have a duty to take care of children who have been left in their care. In order to avoid creating an unreasonable risk of car accidents or pedestrian knockdowns, drivers must obey traffic laws. Depending on the circumstances, a duty of due care may be owed.

Legal Definition Of “Negligence”

Legal Definition Of “Negligence” 

Ordinary negligence is defined under California law as failing to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or others. Generally, someone is negligent if: They do something they would not do if they were reasonably careful, or they fail to do something a reasonable person would do if they were reasonably cautious.


In negligence cases, the key issue for a jury is what a reasonably careful person would do in similar circumstances if the person owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Was the plaintiff's injury caused by the defendant's breach of legal duty?

Common Defenses

Common Defenses To Claims Of Negligence

There are a number of defenses that defendants employ in order to prove they are not negligent in personal injury cases. There are three of the most common defenses to a negligence claim: The defendant owed the plaintiff no duty of care

Often defendants will try to claim they had no duty to act in any particular way toward the plaintiff. However, manufacturers, property owners, business owners, drivers, and others often have a duty to prevent harm to others. They are liable for any damages resulting from their actions if they breach this duty and are negligent (or even if they aren't). Defendants frequently blame plaintiffs for accidents or injuries ("contributory" or "comparative" negligence).


To prove the defendant's liability, a California personal injury lawyer will conduct his or her own investigation. In addition, plaintiffs who are partially at fault for an accident or injury may still recover partial damages under California's "comparative negligence" law."Assumption of risk" refers to the plaintiff's assumption of risk of injury.


The defendant may argue that the plaintiff "assumed the risk" of injury. Especially true in cases where the plaintiff is engaging in activities that are inherently risky, such as gym accidents or surfing accidents.


The defendant must exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries even if the plaintiff has signed a waiver of liability and assumption of risk agreement.

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