What Does Negligence Mean in Personal Injury Law?

November 28, 2023 Personal injury

Experiencing a serious injury is always painful and unexpected, sometimes sending your life spiraling in an unanticipated direction. If the injury occurred at home through no fault but your own, then you’ve no option but to rely on your medical insurance and to take a loss on any missed income and injury-related expenses during your recovery period. However, if someone else’s negligence caused the injury, the law offers recourse for injury victims to recover their damages from the negligent party. The word “damages” in a personal injury claim refers to the economic and non-economic consequences of an injury like medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Before an injury victim can successfully recover compensation for damages in a personal injury claim, the law requires them to prove the at-fault party’s negligence caused the injury in order to meet the legal points of liability.

Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim

Civil courts require proof of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. This means showing evidence that it’s more likely than not that negligence caused the injury—a lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement in criminal court. Proving the at-fault party’s negligence requires an investigation. This could mean examining a police report, viewing surveillance or traffic camera footage, deposing eyewitnesses, or consulting with accident reconstruction experts.

To prove negligence, the injury victim’s attorney must show that the at-fault party breached the general duty of care we all have toward each other. A negligent party is liable for an injury victim’s damages if the following is true:

  • They owed a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent causing injury to others, such as a driver’s duty to obey traffic laws or a store owner’s duty to keep safe premises
  • They breached this duty through an act of negligence
  • Their negligent breach of duty directly caused injury to another
  • The injury victim suffered damages due to the injury

Once an attorney has documented evidence of negligence and carefully calculated the damages, they can make a compelling case for the insurance company of the negligent party to pay compensation for the victim’s damages.

What is Contributory Negligence?

Fault-based insurance law states like California use a comparative negligence insurance system that allows victims to recover a portion of their damages even if they contributed to the cause of their injury. This is the rule of contributory negligence. For example, if driver 1 rolls through a stop sign and hits another car, driver 1’s negligence leaves them liable for driver 2’s damages. But what if driver 2 contributed to the accident because they were exceeding the speed limit which impeded their reaction time? In that case, driver 2’s negligence wasn’t the main cause of their injury but contributed to it. In cases of contributory negligence, an injury victim may recover compensation, but the amount they recover is minus their percentage of fault. If their damages amount to $100,000 but they were 25% at fault for the accident, they’ll still recover $75,000.

This system makes it possible for injury victims to gain some compensation even if they share fault, but sometimes insurance companies take advantage of contributory negligence and attempt to minimize the amount they have to pay out on a claim by assigning an injury victim a greater percentage of fault than they’re due. An experienced team can help by anticipating these tactics and gathering evidence to counteract them. If you’ve fallen and been injured due to someone’s negligence, it’s important to have a skilled Encino slip and fall attorney when making a claim for damages in states with comparative fault insurance systems.

Free Consultation

  • Fields required *
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.