An auto accident is usually just that – an accident – which means no one intentionally caused it. Instead, accidents usually happen because someone made a careless mistake or misjudgment while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers are under a duty to operate their vehicles carefully and in accordance with the traffic laws. When they fail to do so, they are liable for the resulting damages and injuries. But if the accident victim was also partly at fault, California law does not prevent them from recovering.
California comparative negligence
California follows what is known as “pure comparative negligence”, which allows you to recover damages for your injuries in an accident even if you were partly responsible – even if your were more responsible than the other party.
During the negotiation process, an insurance adjuster may attempt to assign percentages of fault to the parties but if the case goes to trial, then the judge or jury will decide this. Unlike what are known as “modified comparative negligence” states that only allow an injury victim to recover if he or she is less than 50% responsible (like Arkansas, Maine, and Tennessee), or less than 51% responsible (like Delaware, Massachusetts, and Oregon), California is one of 13 states that allows the victim to recover even if she or he was 99% at fault. In contrast, there are four states and the District of Columbia that do not allow someone to recover anything for a personal injury if they are even 1% at fault.
What this means is that even if you were 80% at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you can recover up to 20% of the total value of the damages from the other party.
Comparative negligence hurdles
There are some things to keep in mind about how comparative negligence works in California:
- Insurance adjusters and lawyers representing the other parties may try to convince you that you do not have a case because you were partially to blame.
- You have the burden of proving all of the elements of negligence – that the other party owed you a duty to do or to refrain from doing something but that he or she breached that duty, the breach caused the accident, and your physical injuries and property damages were a result of the accident.
It is a wise decision to work with a CA car accident lawyer in these situations. Retaining a personal injury lawyer will put a stop to any harassment by insurance companies or other lawyers. It will also ensure that you present the most compelling case, one that complies with court rules and state evidence procedures.
Strong legal representation in Los Angeles
Recovering from the physical pain and impairment resulting from a car accident or other personal injury is hard enough, but mounting medical bills make the process even tougher. If you have been injured in an accident in Southern California, speak with Los Angeles car accident lawyer Sean Salamati. To schedule a free case review in LA, call today!
“California comparative negligence law” resources:
- Findlaw, California Civil Code Section 1714, http://codes.findlaw.com/ca/civil-code/civ-sect-1714.html
- Justia, California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI), 405. Comparative Fault of Plaintiff, https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/400/405.html