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How Is Fault Determined in a California Car Accident Case?

 Fault is a key issue in who has the responsibility to pay for damages in a California car accident case. It is determined based on whether the parties– or even non-parties– breached a legal obligation known as a “duty.” When someone breaches a duty that leads to an injury, that person may be liable for the damages.

If you were injured in an accident, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney at Salamati Law could help you prove your case and maximize your compensation.

Who is at fault for a car crash?

When it comes to car accidents, California follows fault-based rules. This means an injured plaintiff may recover from a defendant if their fault caused the injury. This is different from the rules in no-fault states where an injured person must make a claim against their own personal injury protection policy– unless the accident was serious.

“Fault” essentially means “negligent,” and to prove this– a plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to do or not do something. A plaintiff must also show that the defendant breached that duty and was injured because of the breach. Further, the injury caused damages such as medical bills, physical pain, or disability.

In auto accidents, motorists have a duty to follow all the rules of the road and generally proceed with caution. If a defendant was speeding, failing to maintain a safe distance, sending text messages, or otherwise violating traffic laws– this might be grounds for a finding fault in the resulting accident.

How to prove fault for an accident

Knowing what to do after a car accident can help you prove your case later on. If you are proactive and gather evidence as the situation unfolds, you will make it easier for your lawyer to prove fault.

Helpful information to gather, if possible, includes:

  • Names and contact information of witnesses
  • Police accident report
  • Photos of the location and vehicles
  • Notes about the road conditions, weather, traffic density, and any other factors leading to the crash

Your lawyer will likely present this evidence to the other party’s insurance adjuster or defense attorney. If the other party accepts liability, the parties will move on to the amount of damages due. If the defendant contests liability, the case is more likely to continue in litigation to uncover more evidence and possibly head to trial where a jury or a judge will determine the fault of the parties.

How comparative fault affects a car accident case

Under the rule of comparative fault, if a plaintiff is partly to blame for the accident, their damages are reduced proportionally. California allows an injured person to seek damages no matter how much of the blame is their own. In theory, even if the plaintiff bears 90% of the fault, they may still seek 10% of their damages from the defendant.

If your case heads to a jury, they will be asked to determine the total damages you incurred, as well as an apportionment of fault for each party. If the jury decides that you suffered $200,000 in damages but bear 20% of the blame, you would be awarded $160,000.

Many factors can impact how a jury or insurance company apportions fault. However, when you have experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyers by your side, you can rest assured that your strongest case will reach the jury.

Contact us for a free case review

Determining fault for an accident is critical in any successful car accident case. Make sure your case is on the right track by speaking with a seasoned car accident lawyer in Los Angeles.  We are dedicated to fighting for compensation for those injured by someone else’s fault. Consultations are confidential and free of charge.

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We are committed to negotiate your case aggressively, strategically and creatively. Personal injury lawsuits are retained on a contingency fee agreement, and plaintiffs will pay no legal fees unless the firm is able to recover damages on your behalf.

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