California is an at-fault state when it comes to establishing negligence in personal injury cases. This means that any legal action, insurance claim or compensation settlement requires that fault is established. Californian law requires that somebody is declared responsible for causing an accident. But this is not limited to just one somebody.
Pure comparative negligence is the idea that any negligent violation of the law, such as a motorist causing a car accident, can be attributed to more than one party. In the case of a car accident, it is common for both drivers to be at fault for the incident to varying degrees.
It is, of course, possible for one party to be 100% guilty and for the other to be 0% responsible. This would be the case in a cut-and-dry situation, e.g. if one driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding wildly down the road ignoring all laws and signs, and there was no evasive action the other motorist could possibly have taken.
But car accidents are rarely this dramatic: they are usually a case of carelessness and distraction. One driver is briefly distracted by a ringing cellphone so isn’t paying full attention to the road, another simply didn’t spot the stop sign and failed to stop. It’s even possible for fault to be assigned to additional parties. There may be two drivers each deemed to be 25% responsible for the accident, and one motorist shouldering the most blame at 50%.
But what does this mean to you as a personal injury victim? The amount of negligence and fault assigned to you can impact the value of your case and the amount of compensation you may be able to claim. Although California’s state laws allow any injured party with less than 100% of blame to claim damages, a party deemed to be 99% responsible for an accident will understandably be entitled to less than the party with 1% of the blame. This is not the case in all states, as some practice “modified comparative negligence”, where the main responsible party may not be able to pursue any claims at all.
Now, all of this might sound confusing and overwhelming, and that’s because it can be. If you’ve suffered a personal injury due to an auto accident on California’s roads, you’ll need an experienced local lawyer with unrivaled knowledge of our state’s particular laws. No matter where you’re based, our lawyers cover everywhere from Berkeley to Vacaville and will be more than happy to offer you a no-obligation consultation at no cost to you.