How Comparative Negligence Works in California

We receive questions about California’s ‘comparative negligence’ law in California and how it operates for those involved in car accidents in the State. We spoke with expert auto accident lawyers to find out how it works.

Being involved in a car accident can have a significant impact on your life. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of people in California are forced to deal with the consequences of car crashes in the state each year.

The issue of comparative negligence has been explained, as in this Forbes article, showing how it operates as a partial defense in a tort claim, but to understand just how it works as a defense in particular jurisdictions requires some knowledge of each jurisdiction.

The doctrine applies in most states with the exception of Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, and North Carolina, all of which have contributory negligence rules that apply in auto accident or other accident cases.

Comparative negligence rules can permit victims can recover monetary damages from a defendant who shares the blame for harming them — but their compensation will be reduced based on their own contribution to the accident. So there are similarities to contributory negligence but also important differences.

In the Californian situation experienced lawyers can assist in determining how the doctrine applies in individual cases and to what extent victims have the right to seek compensation for the damages that they face. Speaking to a car accident lawyer in Costa Mesa we looked at what should be understood about California’s comparative negligence laws and how they work.

What is Comparative Negligence? 

Comparative negligence is a law in California that is used to guide the amount of compensation that individuals are able to recover for any of the damages that they suffer following an accident.

In general, the laws of comparative negligence recognize that either party of an accident can bear responsibility for it taking place. This law takes into account the behaviors and actions of all parties involved in the accident and assigns each of them a percentage of blame. 

By assigning blame to the involved parties, California courts ensure that each person who contributed to the accident is held accountable. This ensures a more fair distribution of compensation for those who suffered damages.

How Does Comparative Negligence Work?

When it comes to personal injury cases, California follows a doctrine known as “pure comparative negligence.” This law indicates that even if you are 99 percent at fault for the accident taking place, you are still able to pursue compensation for the damages that you suffered. However, the amount of compensation you are able to receive for your personal injury claim will be reduced to reflect the percentage of fault that you shared. 

For example, if you were involved in a car crash and suffered injuries, the court will evaluate who contributed to the accident taking place. If the evidence indicates that you were 20 percent at fault for the accident occurring, and you suffered damages in the amount of $100,000, the amount of compensation. As a result, you would be able to recover only 80%, or in this case, $80,000 for your resulting damages.

The system of comparative negligence plays a critical role in personal injury claims that take place here in California. Although it allows injured individuals to seek compensation even if they do share some fault for the accident, it can be incredibly difficult to prove the extent of fault that each driver shared for the accident taking place.

For this reason, it is vital to have a thorough investigation into the accident in order to ensure all of the evidence surrounding the crash is taken into consideration when it comes to proving fault.

How Do You Prove Fault in a Car Crash?

Proving negligence in a car accident case can be challenging, but it is essential if you want to maximize the compensation you recover for your damages. To prove comparative negligence, you must establish that the other party involved in the crash was fully or partially at fault for the accident.

One of the best ways to prove negligence in a car crash is by gathering evidence. This can include photographs of the scene, surveillance footage from nearby businesses or homes, witness statements, and other pieces of evidence from the site of the crash. Medical records and testimony from experts can also help to prove the extent of injuries that you have suffered as a result of the accident.

Your attorney will be able to investigate the accident, reach out to experts, and take other steps necessary to prove that you suffered injuries due to the negligent actions of the other driver.

The Benefits of Comparative Negligence in California

After being injured in an accident, one of the biggest concerns that you may have aside from dealing with your injuries is how you are going to afford the cost of medical care while being unable to work and support your family.

Filing a personal injury claim against the responsible driver can provide you with the financial relief that you need. There are some benefits to the comparative negligence system that is used in California.

One of the biggest benefits is that it promotes fairness and accountability after a person is injured in an accident. Rather than placing all of the blame on one person involved, comparative negligence enables parties to recover fair compensation for their injuries and damages even if they are at fault for the accident occurring in some way.

With a contributory negligence system, if a person is found to be any part at fault for the accident, they are barred from collecting compensation.

In California, based on the comparative negligence laws, injured parties are able to seek compensation for their injuries even if they are 99 percent at fault. This ensures that they are able to seek compensation for any of the losses and damages that they face so long as the other party involved in the accident shares some fault for the accident occurring.

Another benefit of the comparative negligence system is that it provides courts and insurance adjusters with the ability to assign different percentages of fault to each of the parties involved in the accident based on all of the evidence that is presented. This ensures that the award for damages that is provided accurately reflects the amount of accountability that each party has.

The truth of the matter is that every personal injury case in California is completely unique. There are various factors that should be considered when it comes to determining how much money a person is able to recover following their accident. This makes it essential to seek legal guidance as soon as possible. Working quickly can help to ensure that you have the best evidence to prove your case against the defendant so that you are able to recover the maximum compensation possible for your losses and damages following your crash.

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