You are currently viewing What Is The Law On Negligence In California?

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions

But by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.


-John Stuart Mill

Negligence is a legal concept by which people are held responsible for their actions.

Negligence describes conduct that falls below a standard of care. It is part of the law that explains why a person should pay for injuries they’ve caused. It plays a large part in Personal Injury and Property Damage Law, and therefore it’s important to understand the law on negligence in California.

What Are The Elements Of Negligence?

There are 4 elements: (1) duty; (2) breach; (3) causation; and (4) damages.

Duty is generally understood as the duty to use reasonable care. The law imputes the duty to most people. For example, a driver has a duty to use reasonable care while driving a car. A doctor has a duty to use reasonable care while performing surgery. The duty of duty can change, however, depending on the person (e.g. child). California courts rely on Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108 when determining the scope of duty.

Breach is the actual wrongful conduct. For example, consider a driver who struck you on the highway after he ran a red light. His breach would be the running of the red light.

Causation is understood as factual and legal causation. That nuances of causation are beyond the scope of this blog, but it’s important to know that the defendant’s breach must have caused your damages. For example, if you broke your leg because the driver ran the red light, you have causation.

Damages are self-explanatory. They include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Read Personal Injury Settlement Calculator? for more information.

California Negligence Law

California negligence law is codified at Civil Code 1714, which provides that everyone is responsible for injuries caused by their lack of ordinary care. It is also listed in CACI 400, which is a jury instruction used by California courts.

California Statute Of Limitations For Negligence

The Statute of Limitations period for negligence depends on the type of case. For example:

This area of law is nuanced, so speak to a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney about your rights.

Questions? Contact Me for a free consultation.

Evan Walker

Evan W. Walker is a La Jolla attorney who has practiced law since 2008. He has practiced law throughout California, Connecticut, and Louisiana.

Evan worked for and defended insurance companies during the first 7 years of his practice. Since 2015, he has represented people with personal injury and property damage claims and insurance disputes.

Evan’s practice is devoted to serious personal injury claims and catastrophic property damage claims. Areas of focus include security claims against bars and other businesses, government tort claims, fire and flood claims, and inverse condemnation. On behalf of clients, Evan has fought insurance firms, international companies, cities, bars, and casinos.

Evan regularly shares his expertise with other attorneys by teaching courses on insurance and inverse condemnation. He has taught several continuing legal education courses to Attorney Credits, a nationwide CLE company, and ProLawCLE, another nationwide CLE company. He also contributes to various podcasts and publications.


  • Member, State Bar of California
  • Member, San Diego Bar Association
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Member, La Jolla Bar Association
  • Member, La Jolla Village Merchants Association
  • Member, San Diego Chamber of Commerce