There were more than fireworks falling from the sky in one South Los Angeles neighborhood on New Year’s Eve. ABC 7 News reported that amid the celebrations that night, a gunman fired a shot into the air, and the falling bullet struck nine-year-old Christopher Montoya. While Montoya is expected to make a full recovery, the individual who shot the gun is liable for causing his injuries, even if that person was not aiming at Montoya, or never even intended to hit him, or anyone else. Although this may seem like a “freak accident,” the individual shooter can still be liable for the injuries and damages he caused under the legal doctrine of negligence. Montoya can file a personal injury suit against the shooter, based on the shooter’s negligence.
Simply put, the doctrine of negligence means that we as humans, have a duty not to take actions that could hurt other humans. If we do take actions that cause harm, we are liable for that harm we caused, even if it was unintentional.
To prove negligence, you need to show:
- Duty of Care: You need to show that the person who harmed you (the actor) had a duty not to. Under the law, we all have a duty to conform to certain standards of conduct to protect others from unreasonable risks. In the Montoya example, the shooter had a duty not to take actions that would put others at a risk of harm.
- Breach: You also need to show that the actor breached this duty. Generally, you can show breach by demonstrating that the person didn’t act with the care of a reasonable person. In Montoya’s case, a reasonable person would likely know that firing a gun into the air with a crowd of people watching fireworks below, could result in someone getting hit. Many personal injury cases can also be criminal law cases, which is likely the situation here, in which firing a gun in a crowded area is not just negligent, it’s also criminal. In these scenarios, the Los Angeles personal injury lawsuit and the criminal charges are two separate things.
- Causation & Harm: You next need to show, that the actor’s breach of his duty caused you harm. One way to show this is the “But-For” test. We ask the question: “But for the actor’s actions, would I have been harmed?” If the answer is no, that shows the actor is the cause of your harm. For example, “but for” the shooter’s act of firing a gun into the air on New Year’s Eve, Montoya would not have been shot and harmed. The shooter that night was the cause of Montoya’s harm.
Under the law, every person has a duty not to take actions that would harm another person. If you have been harmed by another person’s actions, even if it was a “freak accident,” you may have a personal injury claim under the doctrine of negligence. At Walch Law, we are here to help you with your California personal injury claims, so do not hesitate to get in touch with us today. We have over four decades of experience helping individuals and families in your very situation and will work hard to get you the same great results we have gotten for so many of our clients in the past. Get in touch with us today.