For the most part, you only hear the word negligence used in civil court cases where the plaintiff is trying to convince a judge that had the defendant not been negligent in some way, the accident could have been avoided.
While most negligence cases go through California’s civil courts, there are some cases of criminal negligence that make it into criminal court. In most situations, the word negligence is used in cases that involve something involuntarily happening. Examples of this include involuntary vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter.
According to California law, negligence, both in criminal and civil cases, happens when a person’s actions, even if they aren’t aware of their actions, endanger the public. A good example is a parent failing to lock up a firearm after cleaning it and their child finding the firearm, playing with it and accidentally shooting a caregiver. Since the child would not have had access to the firearm had the parent’s not been negligent, the parents are charged with the crime.
Proving negligence in criminal cases isn’t always easy. To secure a conviction in cases involving negligence, California prosecutors have to show a jury how the average person would react in the specific situation that led to the accident and how the defendant behaved drastically differently. They must prove that had it not been for the defendant’s negligence, the accident wouldn’t have happened.
There are a few solid defenses that defendants can use when it comes to negligence cases. One is that no “duty of care” was expected under California’s law. This means that in the situation, the person being accused of negligence did not have a reasonable reason to think they needed to care for or act differently while in the plaintiff’s presence. In other words, they weren’t negligent, and they simply happened to be at the accident while it was happening.
Another popular defense in negligence cases is that the plaintiff or injured party assumed a certain level of risk when they participated in the events that led up to the accident. This is a prevalent defense in cases involving the deaths of addicts, traffic accidents and incidents involving equipment failures.