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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 or 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

Comparative Negligence


Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery

Contributory negligence or comparative responsibility does not bar recovery if claimant's negligence or comparative responsibility is not as great as defendants, but any damages are diminished in proportion to the negligence or comparative responsibility attributable to claimant

H.R.S. 663-31

Contribution Among Tortfeasors


H.R.S. 663-11 to 663-17

Uniform Act


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, he or she might be liable for the resulting damages.

Hawaii law also employs a doctrine known as “contributory negligence.” Generally, this means that a plaintiff can’t recover damages if he or she is 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.

Hawaii 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. And 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, but you should always consult with an attorney to see whether this applies to you. Contact a personal injury lawyer today to get started.

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