In the state of California, negligence is a legal theory that is used to hold a person or company responsible for harm that results from an accident of some type.

In general, when someone behaves in a careless manner and those actions cause injury to an innocent party, that person is considered to have been negligent. In other words, they should have had reasonable suspicion that their actions could potentially cause harm.

To win a negligence case, the plaintiff must be able to prove the following four elements:

  • Duty – the defendant had some type of legal duty to the plaintiff under the unique set of circumstances;
  • Breach – the defendant breached a legal duty by failing to act or acting in a certain way;
  • Causation – the defendant’s inactions or actions caused harm to the plaintiff;
  • Damages – the plaintiff was injured or harmed due to the defendant’s actions or inactions.

For example, when a person visits the doctor, they can reasonably expect to be treated with a standard of care that is acceptable by other medical professionals. The doctor has a “duty” to uphold those standards. When a doctor does not abide by those standards, he or she has “breached” their legal duty. When the patient is harmed or injured by the doctor, there is “causation.” The resultant injury, in legal speak, is the “damage”.

Negligence claims are not reserved for doctor-patient relationships. Negligence may be called into play when a person causes a car accident, a worker is injured on the job, or a person slips and falls on someone’s property.