Explaining Comparative Negligence in California Car Accident Cases

When consulting with clients in car accident cases, we are often asked whether injured persons can still recover compensation even if they are partly to blame for the accident or their injuries.

East Bay Auto Accident LawyerWe want to reassure you that the answer is “yes.”  Thanks to a legal doctrine called “pure comparative negligence,” you may still be entitled to receive compensation even if you’re partially (but not entirely) at fault.  Your amount will not be as large as if you were blameless, but it is definitely possible for you to recover a certain percentage.

To learn more about how comparative negligence may affect your California car accident case, keep reading below.

Pure Comparative Negligence? 

Pure comparative negligence is a type of standard used in California car accident and other personal injury cases to fairly apportion blame and compensation. Under the comparative negligence rule, a person may receive compensation (i.e., damages) for injuries sustained in an accident, but the amount of compensation awarded will be reduced in proportion to his or her own negligence. Thus, for example, if you are deemed to be 35% responsible and the other driver 65% responsible, you would be entitled to receive 65% (100% – 35%) of your total damages.

In addition to California, 12 other states use the “pure” comparative negligence doctrine to apportion blame in personal injury cases. Thirty-three states use a “modified” comparative negligence standard, where the plaintiff can only recover damages if they are found either less than 50% or less than 51% responsible (depending on the state) for the accident and injuries. In four states, plus the District of Columbia, you are not entitled to receive any damages if you’re even 1% at fault.

Examples of Pure Comparative Negligence?

Let’s say that your vehicle was struck by another car when it ran a stop sign. You suffer a skull fracture and nerve damage as a result. You sue the other driver for $100,000 in damages. However, the other driver argues that because you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, you were partially responsible for your injuries. If the jury or judge agrees, they will allocate fault.  If they deem you 30% at fault and the other driver 70% at fault, you would receive only $70,000 in damages: 30% less than the $100,000 you believed you were entitled to.

Behavior considered to contribute to fault

  • Talking or texting on your cell phone while driving
  • Failing to signal properly before changing lanes or turning
  • Failing to wear a helmet on a motorcycle
  • Failing to wear reflective clothing on a bicycle
  • Failing to look both ways before crossing a street.

What to do if you’re being blamed

To preserve your right to fair and full compensation for your injuries, you should speak to an experienced Bay Area car accident attorney as soon as possible.  A skilled lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident and can help you demonstrate that the other driver carried most, if not all, of the blame.   

Thanks for reading Slice of Appel PI today! We hope that you will continue to read and share this information with others.

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