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Hawaii Negligence Laws

Maybe you were just changing lanes on H-3 and then out of nowhere a speeding motorcycle in the next lane hit your car. How do you determine who is at fault for the damage to your car and your possible injuries?

A negligence claim is the law's way of assigning blame for injuries resulting from an accident. This is a quick introduction to negligence laws in Hawaii.

General Negligence Law

Although each case is different, there are a few elements of a negligence case that a plaintiff (the injured party) must prove in order to receive reimbursement from the defendant (the party who allegedly caused the injury):

  • Duty: the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
  • Breach of Duty: the defendant failed to meet that duty;
  • Cause in Fact: but for the defendant's failure, the plaintiff would not have been injured;
  • Proximate Cause: the defendant's failure (and not something else) caused the plaintiff's injury; and
  • Damages: the plaintiff has actually been injured and suffered some loss.

Negligence Laws in Hawaii

State negligence laws can vary. Hawaii's negligence statutes are listed below.

Code Section

Hawaii Revised Statutes §§ 663-1, et seq.: Tort Actions

Modified Comparative Negligence

Hawaii follows the 51% rule so the plaintiff can be less negligent or equally negligent and still recover minus their contributory negligence.

Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery

Contributory negligence does not bar recovery if the claimant's contributory negligence is not greater than the defendant's, but any damages are diminished in proportion to the negligence or comparative responsibility attributable to the claimant.

H.R.S. §§ 663-31

Contribution Among Tortfeasors

Yes, but only if the joint tortfeasor paid the entire judgment or more than his percentage of fault – H.R.S. §§ 663-11 to 663-17

Uniform Act

Yes; H.R.S. §§ 663-11 to 663-17

The first question in any negligence case is whether one person had a duty of care to another and failed in fulfilling that duty. From the example above, the motorcycle driver owed a duty of care to drive safely and failed, or “breached," that duty by speeding. Therefore, they might be liable for the resulting damages reasonably related to the motorcyclist's negligence.

Hawaii law also employs a doctrine known as "modified comparative negligence." Generally, this means that a plaintiff can't recover damages if they are more at fault than the defendant, and any possible financial recovery will be diminished in proportion to the plaintiff's proven fault, if any.

To continue with our example, let's say you didn't use your blinker while you were changing lanes. If your negligence contributed to the accident, the amount of damages you might receive would be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault for the accident. If a judge or jury determined that your failure to use your blinker resulted in you being 51% or more at fault for your injuries/damages, then your claim would be barred entirely.

Negligence Laws: Related Resources

Negligence law is not the easiest for the layperson to understand. You can consult with an experienced Hawaii personal injury attorney if you would like legal help with a negligence matter. FindLaw's section on Negligence can provide further reading and resources on this topic.

Talk to an Attorney about Negligence

If you've been injured or if your property has been damaged and you believe that someone else is at fault, you might be able to recover money for your losses under Hawaii law. It's always a good idea to consult with an attorney to see whether this applies to you.

Contact a personal injury lawyer today to get started.

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