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What Is the “Duty of Care” in a California Personal Injury Accident?

The duty of care is the standard of conduct imposed by law, which states in general terms that people must foresee the potential outcomes of their actions. California Civil Code 1714 – Responsibility for Willful or Negligent Acts.The duty of care imposed by Civil Code Section 1714 is applied in various situations in California, including but not limited to medical malpractice, car accidents, dog bites, slip-and-falls, and elder abuse and neglect.

You must understand your rights before contacting your insurance company or any other parties related to the accident. Reach out to a California personal injury lawyer for help understanding the duty of care in your specific situation and how that applies to your claim.  Here are three common scenarios where you might recover personal injury damages from a party other than your insurance provider.

First Scenario – Third Party Liability

The duty of care applies to any individual within the State, and can even apply to a business entity acting through its agents and employees. If you are involved in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you might be able to make a claim for damages from them. Here are some examples of third party claims against a business or other entity:

  • Product liability claims – where someone is injured as a result of an unsafe and defective product
  • A grocery store fails to clean up spilled milk and causes a slip and fall accident
  • A County bus driver collides with another vehicle on the city street
  • A property owner fails to prevent a violent assault from occurring on its property when the owner knew, or should have known, that there was a high risk of an assault occurring on the property

A business entity has the same rights and obligations as a human actor; however, a business functions through the actions of its agents and employees. Thus, when making out a third party claim against a business, liability is established by proving negligence against the individual agents and employees of the business.

Second Scenario – Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability is when a hirer is liable for injury suffered by a third party due to the hired party’s negligence. You generally cannot sue an employer for personal injury caused by their employees or agents where the actions of the employee or agent were outside the scope of employment. A common example is where an employee takes a company vehicle without permission and causes an accident, or when a security guard violently assaults a patron. In these examples, the employee or agent were not within the scope of their employment or agency as defined by the agreement with the hirer.

A person who hires an independent contractor may still be liable if they retain sufficient control over the work’s performance. For this type of liability to exist, the hirer must control how the contractor did the job. This is usually a legal question, and relies upon a showing of facts to establish that the hirer had substantial control over the performance of the contractor’s work.

Third Scenario – Contributory Negligence

In California, contributory negligence is not an affirmative defense. Instead, California law permits a person who has contributed to an accident or injury to seek damages from another party whose actions led to the harm. Each party’s comparative fault to the accident is determined in accordance with their actions giving rise to the accident, and each party may recover in accordance with the comparative fault of the other party or parties. For example, if there is a two car collision in an intersection, and each party is determined to be 50% at fault, each party may recover 50% of their damages.

Contact a California Personal Injury Lawyer for Help With Your Claim

If you face a legal issue like personal injury, you may be tempted to research your circumstances and attempt to represent yourself instead of hiring a lawyer. When you choose to represent yourself in court, you’ll need to follow specific rules and procedures. These procedures include filing motions, subpoenaing witnesses, and presenting evidence at trial in accordance with the Evidence Code. This decision could cost you time and money, and ultimately your case. Instead, a personal injury lawyer is trained in these matters, and can handle your case professionally and to your ultimate benefit.

Our team of personal injury lawyers and case managers at Benchmark Injury Law offer clients in Irvine, California, a unique and values-based approach to helping our clients pursue the justice they are owed. We aim to develop strong relationships with all of our clients and investigate each situation in detail to deliver the best possible result.

Call us today at (949) 504-9031 or fill out our contact form to discuss your next steps.

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