Most personal injury cases are based on the law of negligence. Negligence involves an act or failure to act with the same degree of care that an ordinary and reasonably prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances. In order to show negligence, a person claiming injuries must prove certain elements. Those elements are that:
- The defendant owed him or her a duty of care
- The defendant breached that duty
- The breach of duty caused the accident
- The accident was the proximate cause of the claimant’s injuries
- The claimant suffered legally recognized damages
If a claimant fails to prove any one of the above elements, his or her case completely fails.
Proving the elements
Proving the elements of negligence involves the facts of the case. California allows this evidence to be gathered from any number of sources.
- Police reports are the most likely source of objective information regarding an auto accident. They include statements of the drivers and any independent witnesses. They might also contain statements regarding the investigating police officer’s observations and inferences.
- Traffic citations state a specific violation of a California Vehicle Code provision or a violation of a municipal ordinance. A plea of guilty to a traffic offense might be used to prove fault in a personal injury case.
- The type of accident can also be used to show fault. Rear-end and left turn accidents ordinarily speak for themselves.
- The property damage to the vehicles involved might strongly support one driver’s version of how the crash occurred.
- Traffic and surveillance cameras are unbiased, and they can show exactly what happened at the scene.
Using your evidence in court
California’s rules of civil procedure and evidence govern how and when you might be able to use evidence that supports liability in an accident. These rules are quite complicated, and without proper disclosure and foundation, evidence might not ever get in front of a jury. That’s part of our job as California personal injury lawyers. We dig deep to acquire the evidence that we need to support our position, and when we discover that evidence, we make a proper disclosure of it to the opposing attorneys. Then we lay the foundation for using it as evidence when a trial is necessary.
Sometimes both parties to an accident can be at fault. At the time of your crash, you also had a duty to use due care and caution for your personal safety. Under California’s law of comparative negligence, if you are determined to be partially at fault for an accident, the percentage of fault attributable to you is deducted from your award. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 in an accident, but the jury determines that you were 25 percent at fault, your net award would be $75,000.
California is a pure comparative negligence state
There are modified comparative negligence states and pure comparative negligence states. In some modified comparative negligence states, if you’re determined to be 50 percent at fault for an accident, you recover nothing. In others, you recover nothing if you’re 51 percent at fault. In a pure comparative state like California, you can be 99 percent at fault for an accident, but you can still recover one percent of the damages that you claim. That’s an extreme example, but pure comparative negligence can operate in the favor of some people in some accidents.
Many attorneys refer personal injury cases to us because they lack the skills and resources necessary to represent their clients best interests. You’re welcome to visit us after being injured in any accident. Consultations are free, and we don’t even get paid until we obtain a settlement or verdict for you. Contact us right away after being injured in any accident.