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How is Negligence Defined in Hawaii?

April 26, 2023

Maybe you were traveling along H-1 in Honolulu when a car slammed into you because the other driver decided to merge without looking. It’s natural to have questions about responsibility and negligence in Hawaii, including who was at fault in a collision and what constitutes negligence.

Thankfully, the laws of the Aloha State have our backs when accidents happen, and people get wounded. However, familiarity with our state-wide regulations is essential. Furthermore, if you have issues about fault or carelessness following an accident, it is crucial to speak with a personal injury lawyer in the Honolulu region.

The Definition of Negligence in Hawaii

An injured party (the “plaintiff”) must establish the following elements of negligence in Hawaii in order to recover damages from the “at-fault” party (the “defendant”):

  1. The defendant was responsible for the plaintiff’s safety.
  2. There was a breach of duty when the defendant failed to exercise the required care.
  3. The plaintiff’s losses can be traced back to this breach (sometimes called “direct action” but more commonly “proximate cause”).

What is Proximate Cause?

To be legally responsible for your injuries, the person or entity that owes you a duty must have been negligent in some way that was sufficiently relevant to your injuries for the law to regard that person as the cause of your injuries.

Put simply, when the actions of another person are just a remote cause of your damage, we do not consider those actions to be a proximate cause. On the other hand, if your injury would not have taken place “but for” the conduct of another, then you can generally draw the conclusion that there was proximate causation.

Hawaii’s Tort Law

The state of Hawaii is one of the few remaining “no-fault” jurisdictions, which means that the auto insurance policies of the drivers who are found to be at fault reimburse the costs of any damages caused by an accident. In the event of a car accident in Hawaii, the injured party is the one who is required to make the initial claim with their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.

Unfortunately, those who suffer injuries in a car crash typically face lengthy delays before they may file a claim against the driver they believe was at blame. The following are prerequisites for filing a lawsuit against a careless motorist:

  • In total, compensation for the incident exceeded $5,000 (including both medical costs and other losses).
  • Your injuries were so severe and permanent that you lost the use of a body part or bodily function, or you were disfigured to the point of considerable mental or emotional distress.

However, there are a few exceptions under Hawaii’s negligence rules.

What Are Comparative and Contributory Negligence?

Pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative, and contributory negligence all exist side by side in American law. Each state determines comparative negligence differently, but there are several different types:

  • A negligent party is entitled to compensation for their injuries based on their degree of fault unless they are found to be fully at fault.
  • The injured party is entitled to compensation proportional to their degree of fault, up to a maximum of 50% or 51%, as applicable.
  • To the extent that the injured party contributed to their own injuries (a concept known as “contributory negligence”), they will be barred from seeking damages.

Five states only use pure contributory negligence, while pure comparative negligence is used by twelve.

Comparative and Contributory Negligence in Hawaii

The issue of comparative negligence (sometimes called comparative fault) may be presented if the defendant claims that the plaintiff was also partially responsible for the accident. The defense will next argue that the plaintiff is not fully compensated for their losses.

Occasionally, a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages is completely barred by the doctrine of comparative negligence. In some jurisdictions, a plaintiff who is even partially at fault cannot be awarded damages. When a plaintiff is found to be partially at fault, they may still be awarded damages under some laws.

In Hawaii, you might still receive compensation for your injuries if you were found to be less than 51% at fault in an accident. The most difficult part of any car collision is obviously figuring out who was at fault.

In addition, the percentage of an accident victim’s fault or comparative negligence that is placed on the victim means that the victim’s damages will be decreased; however, if the victim’s contributory negligence is less than the defendant’s, then the victim can still collect.

Do Damage Caps Apply in Hawaii?

The awarded damages are often rather minor in personal injury or accident cases. Every state has its own regulations, including a list of injuries for which there is a cap on damages as well as a list of categories for which there is a cap on damages.

In Hawaii, “pain and suffering” damages cannot exceed $375,000. There are few exceptions, but generally speaking, this restriction applies to actions involving medical malpractice or comparable forms of negligence.

Contact Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner in Hawaii

When one of our clients has been injured, the personal injury attorneys at Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner are prepared to defend their rights aggressively. If you or a loved one has been gravely hurt in an accident that was not your fault, our team will fight to ensure that you receive the financial compensation you need and deserve.

The already exorbitant expenditures of treatment, rehabilitation, and long-term care are compounded by the mental anguish and physical suffering that frequently follow such tragedies.

Needless to say, we know how difficult it may be for victims and their families to deal with legal issues on top of injuries and mounting bills following an accident.

Our Hawaii personal injury lawyers are dedicated to standing by the side of accident victims at every turn of the legal process, helping them to obtain justice and fair compensation. If you have any concerns or would like to organize a no-cost initial consultation and examination of your case, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at 808-537-2525.

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