Comparative Negligence in California

Most personal injury cases in California are based on the concept of “negligence.” The term negligence is used in the legal context as showing that someone had a duty to another person and that duty was violated, resulting in damages. “Negligence” is commonly associated with “fault.”
In many circumstances, more than one person may be at fault in an accident. In those situations, California law will use the concept of “comparative negligence.” This means that even if you are partially at fault for an accident, you may still be able to collect damages caused by the other person.
Comparative negligence allows accident victims to still bring a lawsuit even if they may have contributed to the accident. Without comparative negligence laws, victims who were even minimally at fault may not be able to assert a claim. Thankfully, a car accident attorney in Los Angeles will be able to help you file a lawsuit even where the accident was not entirely another person’s fault.

How Does Comparative Negligence Work?

California is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that each defendant is only responsible for the percentage of fault attributed to his or her actions. The plaintiff in a lawsuit must reduce the number of damages awarded by any portion of legal responsibility assigned to them.
Consider an example. Imagine you and another person are involved in a car accident. The other driver T-bones your vehicle while you are going through an intersection because he ignored a stop sign. However, you are also speeding slightly at the time of the crash. Based on these facts, a jury might determine that the other driver is 90% at fault, and you are 10% at fault. If you are awarded $10,000 in damages, you must reduce that amount by the 10% that is your fault. That means that you will actually receive $9,000 instead of the full $10,000 you would have otherwise received.
Some other states use a modified comparative negligence system. In those situations, you can only recover your damages if you are less than 50% at fault for the accident. However, there is no such ruling California. That means that you can be over 50% at fault and still receive damages for the portion of the accident that you did not cause.

Comparative Negligence at Trial

Defendants often use comparative negligence as a defense in car accident cases. However, because California is a pure comparative negligence state, this type of argument usually does not bar your claim altogether. It can, nonetheless, reduce the overall amount of damages you are awarded. As a result, minimizing any argument for your potential fault in the accident is still very important.
A Los Angeles car accident attorney will be able to help you combat any issues you might face if a defendant raises comparative negligence as a defense. Your attorney can also gather and present evidence that shows that the other driver was the primary reason that the accident occurred. The experienced car accident lawyers at Compass Law Group, LLP in Beverly Hills can help with this process.


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