4 Elements of General Negligence in California

Author: Mesriani Law Group
Posted on: March 1, 2021

Negligence is the concept where people are held accountable for their actions. When someone fails to follow a certain standard of conduct and causes harm to someone else, the individual causing harm can legally be held responsible.

In law, there are four (4) key elements required to prove negligence. An element is the necessary piece of a legal claim. To prove negligence, a victim must prove that there is a duty of care, breach of duty, causation (cause in fact), and damages. 

Below are details about each of the key elements:

Duty of Care

The first element to determine negligence is whether or not the person has a legal duty of care. In other words, a duty of care is the responsibility to use reasonable care. In general, a duty of care exists when one party in the relationship should exercise the same level of reasonable care that another individual would in a similar situation.

For example:

A driver has a duty of care when he or she is operating a vehicle to maintain safe driving conditions.

Another example includes a doctor’s responsibility to use reasonable care when operating or performing surgery. 

Breach of Duty 

The second element to prove negligence is to determine if an individual breached this duty. A breach is the act of misconduct.

For example, a driver collides into another car after running a red light. In this case, the breach would be the action of the driver running the red light.

A person could be found responsible for breach of duty if an average person would have done something different in a similar situation. In the example above, a responsible person would have stopped at the red light. 

Causation (Cause in Fact)

Causation or cause in fact is the third element of negligence. This element requires a victim to show that the defendant’s breach of duty was the reason (cause) for their injury or loss.

An important consideration is whether the harmful actions of the defendant were foreseeable. If the actions were unforeseeable or an unexpected act of nature, the defendant might not be responsible. 


The fourth and final element of negligence is damages. Damages are the compensation that the victim receives because he or she suffered an injury or loss. Monetary compensation can include lost wages and medical expenses.

For example, a home improvement store displays heavy products on an uneven surface of a top shelf. A customer walks by and the shelf collapse, causing the products to fall onto the customer – causing a serious head injury. As a result, the customer is forced to miss work and collects a massive hospital bill. In this case, the customer could receive damages for lost wages and medical expenses. 

Hire a Los Angeles Injury Attorney

If you suffered injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence, you have the right to claim damages against the party at fault. An experienced personal injury attorney at Mesriani Law Group can help you with your personal injury claims and get you the justice you deserve. Our highly skilled attorneys will fight for you so you can focus on your recovery.