Pure Comparative Negligence: What is it?
With personal injury cases, California applies a comparative negligence system. Under this system, both drivers and pedestrians may seek compensation if they are found to share equal responsibility for causing the accident. In addition, under the law, plaintiffs must prove that each defendant was negligent before recovering any money.
In California, a person injured by another driver may sue the other party for damages. However, under California law, the plaintiff may recover some or all of the amount he or she receives from the other driver’s insurance company. In addition, the plaintiff may collect compensation for losses caused by the injuries, such as medical bills, pain, and suffering, loss of wages, etc. Thus, even though the plaintiff recovers money from the other driver, he or she does not receive double recovery because the plaintiff also collects funds from the insurance company.
The defendant might be liable for damages even if he was not negligent. For example, if a pedestrian is struck by a car driven by another person but does nothing to avoid being hit, the driver could still be held responsible. Comparative negligence laws do not always result in equal payouts. Insurance companies use comparative fault findings to determine how much money should go to each party involved in an accident.
In order to recover monetary settlements or damages for your injuries resulting from the actions of someone else, you must show that the other person was at fault or caused the accident. One way to do this is to show “negligence.”
Before 1975 California was a contributory negligence state, which basically means if you were at fault in any way, even 1%, you were not allowed to recover any damages from the defendant in a lawsuit. After 1975 the rule changed, and comparative negligence or comparative fault was introduced.
What Is Comparative Fault?
Comparative fault is based on the degree to which you were responsible for your injuries. For example, if you were traveling 60 miles per hour and ran into someone else’s car that was stopped in traffic because the other driver was texting, then you would probably be held partially accountable for the damage caused by your negligence. However, if you were traveling 40 miles per hour and ran headlong into a parked truck, then you would most likely be completely at fault for causing the collision.
Comparative negligence just means that the jury will determine if you, as a plaintiff (party seeking recovery), were at fault in any way whatsoever. If they do find you at fault, then the amount they determined should be awarded is reduced. For example, if the jury thinks you should receive $10,000.00 for your injuries but finds you to be 10% at fault, the actual award will be 90% or $90,000.00.
The jury determines comparative fault after determining how much the award should be. California is a “pure” comparative negligence state. This means you can win your case even if you were 99% at fault (you would only receive 1% of the award the jury determined). Some states only allow an award if you were less than 50% at fault.
There are plenty of factors that go into determining fault on your behalf. They include:
- violation of traffic laws, such as speeding (most common)
- not using safety equipment, such as seat belts, helmets, etc.
- speeding through a yellow light or running a red light
- distraction, especially texting while driving!
- driving at an unsafe speed for the conditions
- crossing the street when the traffic signal did not indicate it was safe
Note that if the case is settled before trial, comparative negligence is not even a factor.
Contact A San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have been injured due to the actions of someone else’s negligence, you need to know about comparative negligence laws and what you can expect in court. You also need to understand the difference between joint and several liability and apportionment of fault. This information will help you decide whether to accept a settlement offer or take your case to trial.
If you have specific questions regarding comparative negligence, schedule a confidential consultation right now regarding any California injury or accident by calling (858) 999-2870.