Understanding How Contributory Fault Works in California
California personal injury laws allow injured parties to recover damages caused by another party. However, you must prove that the other party caused your injury to recover compensation for your damages. If you are partially at fault for the cause of your injury, your damages award could be reduced under California’s comparative negligence laws.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence, also referred to as comparative fault, is a legal theory used to divide damages between multiple parties responsible for causing an accident. Each party receives compensation based on the amount of fault they have for the cause of the accident.
California is a pure comparative negligence state. That means injured parties are not barred from recovering compensation regardless of their percentage of fault for the cause of the accident.
Some states have bars for recovery. If a person is 50 or 51 percent at fault for the cause of their injury, many state laws bar recovery of any money for their damages. In California, you could be 99 percent responsible for an auto accident and still recover one percent of your damages from the other party.
Damages Awarded for Personal Injury Claims in California
When another party injures you because of negligence or wrongdoing, you can seek compensation.
Damages in a personal injury case can include:
- Medical bills and medical expenses for treatment of your injuries
- The loss of wages, benefits, and other income
- The cost of damage to your personal property
- Physical, emotional, and mental pain and suffering
- Disabilities, scarring, and permanent impairments
- The loss of enjoyment of life and decreases in your quality of life
- The cost of personal care and other out-of-pocket expenses
To recover full compensation for all of your damages, the other party must be entirely responsible for the cause of the accident. You must also file your claim before the deadline set forth in the California statute of limitations. Waiting too long to file your claim could result in no compensation for your damages, even if the other driver is entirely responsible for the cause of your injuries.
How Comparative Negligence Works in California Personal Injury Cases?
Comparative negligence laws reduce the money you receive for a personal injury claim when you are partially at fault. For example, suppose that you are involved in a car accident with another driver. The other driver failed to yield the right of way and slammed into your vehicle in the intersection.
However, there is evidence that you were texting while driving at the time of the car crash. A jury finds that had you not been distracted; you might have avoided the accident. Therefore, the jury decides you were 40 percent responsible for the cause of the crash.
If the jury awards you $300,000 for your financial losses and damages, the most you can receive for your case is $180,000 (or 60% of $300,000). The amount the jury awarded you is reduced by 40 percent (your percentage of fault for the cause of the crash).
Ways to Avoid Comparative Fault Allegations After an Accident?
Insurance companies often allege that the other driver has fault in an accident lawsuit. The goal is to reduce the plaintiff’s compensation for damages.
Steps you can take to improve your chance of winning against comparative negligence allegations include:
- Never admit fault for the cause of an accident or say you are sorry at an accident scene
- Do not discuss the accident or your injuries with anyone other than the responding police officer and your personal injury lawyer
- Avoid posting any information online, including social media accounts, until after your case settles
- Do not answer questions for an insurance adjuster or agree to give a written or recorded statement without talking to a lawyer first
- Remember that the insurance company generally records all telephone conversations, even if the person does not inform you that the call is recorded
- See a doctor as soon as possible after the accident to document your injuries, and follow through with your medical treatment
- Document your injuries by keeping careful notes about your injuries, doctor’s visits, daily activities, etc.
You should seek legal advice from a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. You need an attorney trained in dealing with insurance companies and allegations of joint liability. The lawyer provides additional do’s and don’ts that can improve your chance of receiving the compensation you deserve for a personal injury claim.
Call Our California Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If an insurance company is trying to blame you for causing your injury, contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers, P.C. to schedule a free consultation with an experienced California personal injury attorney.