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  • Writer's pictureLOTG

When Is a Driver Negligent Under California Law?

Updated: Apr 10

Every time you get into your car and drive onto the road, you have a duty of care to your fellow drivers and the public at large. This duty is that you will drive reasonably and safely. But what happens when someone doesn’t? Could this rise to the level of negligence? At what point is a driver negligent under California law? In this blog, we will explore the concept of negligence in the context of driving and how to know when you could bring a personal injury case against a driver for negligent driving.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is a legal concept that assumes that we all owe each other some sort of duty to act reasonably for the public good. In comparison, there are particular duties that some people owe others (like a duty of care owed from a doctor to a patient or parent to a child). Still, we all owe each other a duty to drive as a reasonably prudent person would do when it comes to driving. Failure to use reasonable care is considered a breach of this duty and can result in damages, like a personal injury or damage to your vehicle.

California’s “Negligence Per Se” Law

While there is an entire legal analysis that the court will go through to determine negligence, there are also “negligence per se” laws, which mean negligence will be assumed if other factors are met. “Per se” is a legal term meaning “of itself,” also meaning “on its’ face.”

In California, the defendant is presumed to be negligent if they have done the following:

Violated a law, statute, or ordinance, and

The violation causes an injury.

While the burden of proof is typically on the Plaintiff, in a negligence per se case, the burden shifts onto the defendant, they now must prove that they did not violate the law or the violation did not cause the injury.

For example, if you were hit by a drunk driver who was then arrested at the scene for DUI, you could bring a negligence per se case. They violated the law when they drove above the legal limit for alcohol in their system. Their drunk driving caused the accident that caused injury to you.

Has a negligent driver injured you? Did a drunk driver injure you? We can help. Contact Gomerman | Bourn & Associates at 415 545 8608 today!

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