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 is licensed to practice in California, Connecticut, and Louisiana. His entire practice has been in litigation.

Evan is from a small town outside of New Orleans. He attended law school in New Orleans, which was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina. After evacuating to Houston, Evan graduated in 2008 as part of the ‘Hurricane Katrina Class.’

After graduation, Evan worked for a New Orleans insurance defense firm. He defended insurance companies against Hurricane Katrina lawsuits brought by homeowners and business owners.

In 2010, he and his wife moved to New Haven, Connecticut, so his wife could complete a medical residency at Yale. During the next few years, Evan worked for Travelers Insurance Company defending countless personal injury lawsuits.

In 2014, he moved to San Diego so his wife could complete a medical fellowship at UCSD. He then opened his own firm to represent people after years of defending insurance companies.

Evan is a Featured Faculty at Attorney Credits, a CLE company, and a regular contributor to various podcasts and publications. He has also been interviewed by San Diego television stations about his cases and practice.

Evan spent almost a decade as a defense attorney who defended insurance companies from personal injury and property damage lawsuits. He knows how insurance companies bully people and deny claims. And he knows how to fight them.

Bar Admissions: California Connecticut (inactive) Louisiana (inactive)

Acta Non Verba

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