It is not always obvious who is at fault in an accident. In fact, it’s often possible for multiple individuals to share fault in certain collisions and even in other types of personal injury claims.
The principle of comparative negligence applies in these cases. But what is comparative negligence, why is it used, and how does it affect accident claims? Learn more about comparative negligence in personal injury cases below. If you’ve been involved in an accident that left you injured, don’t hesitate to contact a personal injury lawyer in Orange County to help you with your potential claim.
What is Comparative Fault?
Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, each party to an accident is held responsible for their own level or portion of the fault in causing the incident. In other words, even if the primary victim contributed in any way to the accident, their financial recovery is diminished under the rule of comparative negligence.
Let’s say a driver struck a pedestrian as they attempted to cross the street. In a scenario where comparative fault comes into play, maybe the pedestrian was preoccupied with their phone and didn’t see the approaching vehicle.
The driver of the vehicle may have been likewise distracted by a phone or another electronic device, such as a GPS system. Even so, both the pedestrian and the motorist, in this case, share some of the fault for the collision. The judge may rule that the pedestrian was 30% at fault and the driver was 70% at fault.
From there, if the pedestrian’s accident settlement totaled $100,000, they would ultimately be rewarded compensation of $70,000 (the full settlement minus their percentage of fault).
The Law of Contributory Negligence
The law of “comparative negligence” was developed in the early 20th century in the United States. Before that time, if an accident victim was determined to have contributed in any manner to the accident, they were not entitled to any compensation under the theory of contributory negligence. Many people felt that victims were treated unfairly under the doctrine of contributory negligence since it did not take into account the relative degrees of blame between the parties.
Comparative negligence was first used in a court of law in a Wisconsin case from 1918. The plaintiff, in this case, was judged to be partly responsible for a train accident because he was standing too close to the tracks. Based on this level of fault, the court ruled that the plaintiff should have some of their damages reduced.
Differences Between Comparative and Contributory Fault
Thus, two legal concepts are used to establish fault in personal injury cases: comparative negligence and contributory negligence. Victims may still get compensation under comparative negligence but cannot under contributory negligence if they are determined to have contributed in any manner to the cause of the incident in question.
For example, consider a scenario where a motorist is texting, runs a red light, and then hits a pedestrian in the roadway. According to the doctrine of comparative negligence, the court may find that the pedestrian was 10% at fault while the motorist was 90% at fault. The pedestrian’s recovery would be reduced to $90,000 if their losses were valued at $100,000 after a 10% reduction for comparative negligence.
However, contributory negligence would prevent the pedestrian from receiving any compensation in the same scenario. Put simply, the rule of contributory negligence prevents accident victims from suing for compensation if they were also at fault for causing the incident.
Comparative Fault Under California Law
To say that fault is complicated in California civil law would be an understatement. More specifically, it’s possible that many people or parties might share fault for an accident and its subsequent damages and various financial costs.
The law of pure comparative negligence in California also means that a victim may be entitled to compensation from all negligent parties who contributed to their injuries, regardless of how much fault they’ve been assigned.
What is Pure Comparative Fault?
Oftentimes, comparative negligence claims are no longer valid if a victim is 51% at fault or more for an accident. But under rules for pure comparative fault, a victim may submit a claim even if they are determined to be 99% at fault for the incident, meaning that they can sue another party for compensation when that other party is only 1% at fault.
How to Handle Comparative Fault in California
You may take numerous steps to safeguard your rights and increase the settlement you recover in the event of an accident in which comparative negligence had a role:
- First and foremost, seek medical care after any type of accident, no matter the cause or the severity of your injuries. Your injuries, and your case, may suffer if you put off getting medical attention.
- The second step is to gather evidence, such as pictures, witness accounts, and police reports, about the incident. This evidence may be used to determine the extent to which each party is at fault.
- Talk to a lawyer; they can assist you in understanding the intricacies of comparative negligence and defend your rights. They will provide you with an honest assessment of your case and help you negotiate with insurance companies for a satisfactory settlement.
Contact Beckerman Anderson’s Personal Injury Attorneys
Whatever the cause of an accident, it’s important for victims who’ve sustained injuries and other damages to get the experienced legal counsel that they deserve. Victims and their families should never have to worry about paying for medical expenses, covering lost wages, and coping with the trauma of injuries on their own.
Thankfully, our personal injury law firm in Orange County can help you deal with an accident’s aftermath and prepare a solid claim for personal injury. Our attorneys at Beckerman Anderson have extensive experience with personal injury claims arising from automobile collisions, dog attacks, slip-and-fall incidents, and so much more.
Don’t hesitate to get the seasoned legal representation you deserve after another party’s carelessness or negligence has left you with injuries. To schedule an initial no-cost consultation with one of our Orange County personal injury attorneys, call 949-409-4242 now.