The legal definition of negligence is failing to exercise a level of care that a reasonable person would have used under the same circumstances. A person may be negligent because they failed to act or because their actions were negligent. 

Most personal injury claims in California are based on the legal grounds of negligence. The injured party has the burden of proof in a negligence claim. They must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the other party breached their duty of care and caused the victim’s injuries and damages. 

The best way to understand negligence is to review the four legal elements required to prove liability in a negligence claim.

Duty of Care 

Duty of Care 

Before a party can be liable for damages, you must prove they owe you a legal duty of care. A duty of care in a personal injury case is the obligation to avoid causing harm or injury to another person. 

For example, drivers have a duty of care to obey traffic laws and drive with care to avoid causing an accident. Doctors have a duty of care to provide services that meet the medical standard of care. Property owners have a duty of care to maintain safe premises for invitees and guests. 

Breach of Duty 

Breaching the legal duty of care can lead to a negligence claim. A breach of duty occurs when a party fails to exercise the level of care required for a specific situation. The level of care is based on the reasonable person standard. 

A jury must decide what a person with reasonable prudence and caution would have done given the same or similar circumstances. In a medical malpractice case, the standard of care is based on the accepted medical standard for a given set of facts. 

The jury then compares the party’s actions to the standard of care. If the party’s conduct fell below the standard of care, the jury may find the defendant negligent. The standard of care varies depending on the facts of the case. 


The party’s contact must be a direct and proximate cause of the victim’s injuries. It is possible for a party to be negligent but not be responsible for causing a person’s injuries. 

Therefore, we apply two tests to determine causation. First, would the victim have suffered the injury had it not been for the party’s conduct? In other words, would the victim be injured if the party had not acted the way they did? 

Then, was the harm a national and foreseeable consequence of the party’s actions? A person might not be held liable for damages if they could not reasonably foresee their actions could cause harm or for situations beyond their control. 


The final element in a negligence claim is damages. You must prove that you sustained damages because of the party’s breach of duty. 

Damages in a personal injury claim can include economic damages. These damages include lost wages, property damage, medical bills, and out-of-pocket expenses.

Damages also include non-economic damages. Examples of non-economic damages include emotional distress, diminished quality of life, impairments, and other types of pain and suffering. 

How Does Comparative Negligence Impact a Personal Injury Case in Hermosa Beach?

California has a pure comparative fault standard for personal injury cases. It compares each party’s level of negligence or fault to determine damages. 

For example, if a party is 100% responsible for causing an accident, that party could be liable for the total amount of the injured party’s damages. However, if the parties were equally at fault for causing the accident, they could each be responsible for 50% of the other party’s damages. 

Comparative fault can significantly reduce the amount you receive for a personal injury claim. Insurance companies often use comparative fault to undervalue damages in a personal injury claim. It is not in your best interest to admit fault for an accident or provide a statement for an insurance company without legal advice. 

What Is the Deadline for Filing Personal Injury Negligence Claims in California?

Most personal injury claims based on general negligence in California have a two-year statute of limitations. The court can dismiss your lawsuit if you do not file it before the deadline expires.

However, there are exceptions to the general rule that could shorten or extend the statute of limitations. The best way to protect your right to pursue a legal claim at trial or through settlement is to seek legal advice as soon as possible after an injury or accident. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Hermosa Beach Personal Injury Lawyers

You deserve fair compensation for your injuries and damages caused by another party. At the Simon Law Group, we fight to obtain the best possible outcome for your personal injury case. Our Hermosa Beach personal injury attorneys at The Simon Law Group can help. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation from an experienced Hermosa Beach personal injury attorney at (424) 722-3209