What Is California’s “Comparative Fault” Law?
Comparative fault is a negligence rule that states both parties can share fault for a single accident, and the plaintiff can still receive compensation. States abide by pure contributory negligence or comparative fault laws in the U.S. Most states have eliminated the contributory negligence rule for being unfair to victims. This rule states that if a plaintiff contributed at all to the accident – even by 1% – he or she cannot recover any compensation. Luckily for accident victims in San Diego, California is a pure comparative fault state.
Understanding Comparative Fault
Comparative fault understands that most accident cases are not black and white. Rather than punishing a victim for contributing even in a minor way to an accident, comparative fault laws deal with a claim fairly and equitably. California Civil Code Section 1714 states that everyone is responsible for willful acts they commit, as well as injuries that arise because of the acts. All parties involved in a personal injury accident case could share some degree of fault for the collision in California.
There are pure and modified comparative negligence states. California abides by the pure version. In a pure comparative fault state, a plaintiff can qualify for compensation regardless of his or her percentage of fault. The courts could find a plaintiff 85% at fault for an accident and still award him or her some compensation. In a modified rule state, a plaintiff cannot exceed a certain degree of fault. Usually, the degree of maximum fault falls between 49% and 51%. If the courts find a plaintiff more than the assigned degree of fault, he or she will lose the right to recover.
In California, it may be worthwhile to speak to a personal injury attorney in San Diego and discuss the possibility of compensation no matter how at fault you were for the accident. It may surprise you to find that you are still eligible for some financial recovery thanks to California’s pure comparative fault law. The courts will simply reduce your compensation award by your assigned percentage of fault. If you are 10% responsible for failing to prevent a slip and fall, for example, but the defendant is 90% at fault for failing to clean the spill, you could recover $9,000 of a $10,000 award.
How to Maximize Your Compensation Award
In a pure comparative negligence state, one of the most important things to keep in mind is how to maximize financial recovery after an accident. The defendant in your case will likely try to minimize his or her fault by pointing the blame at you. It is up to you to defend yourself from accusations and to prove that the defendant holds the majority fault through a preponderance of evidence. A San Diego accident lawyer can help you with these tasks during a serious accident case. They can help you collect evidence, build a case, and present it to a judge or jury.
For a defendant to use contributory negligence as a defense, he or she must provide evidence to support that you were in fact negligent. Even if the defendant has this evidence, it will not bar you from recovery. Instead, the courts will only use it as a factor in considering the amount of fault thereof. The courts will look at evidence from both sides of the case and divide fault between you and the defendant(s). The courts will then reduce your damage award by your own degree of negligence. A lawyer can help you minimize your percentage of fault, thus maximizing your compensation.
If you believe you could share fault for your recent accident and injuries, hire an attorney to take over your case for you. A personal injury lawyer will know how to navigate California’s pure comparative fault laws in your favor. An attorney can decrease the chances of the courts finding that your negligence was a substantial factor in causing the harm. This will help you obtain more for your damages.