Negligence occurs when someone engages in behavior that falls short of how a “reasonable person” would have behaved in a similar situation to keep from causing harm to himself or others.
To succeed in a personal injury lawsuit in California, you will need to prove that the other party’s behavior met each of the following elements of negligence:
1. Duty – the other party had a legal duty to take reasonable measures to avoid injuring you;
2. Breach – the other party breached his or her duty to you;
3. Causation – the other party’s breach caused you to be injured; and
4. Damages – you suffered bodily injury, economic damages, and/or noneconomic damages as a result of the other party’s breach of duty
Once you have established each of these elements, the question becomes whether the other party can assert a negligence defense to avoid liability for your damages. One of the most commonly asserted defenses to negligence in California is comparative negligence.
This article discusses comparative negligence in California and when and how it can affect your recovery after an accident in California.
When someone suffers an injury, the victim, someone, or both the victim and someone else may be at fault. For instance, if at the time of a car accident, you were driving above the speed limit and the other driver was driving under the influence, both you and the other driver may be deemed at fault for the accident and its resulting injuries.
Traditionally, any degree of negligence on your part would bar you from any recovery. In other words, if you shared any blame at all for the accident in which you were injured, you would be unable to recover any compensation from the other driver. This is known as Contributory Negligence.
For instance, let’s say that someone left a bar after drinking heavily and crashed their car into your car, which was parked illegally along the road. Under contributory negligence, you would be barred from recovering any compensation from the drunk driver because you contributed to the accident by parking your car illegally.
Currently, only five states still follow contributory negligence. All other states have switched to a more just approach referred to as Comparative Negligence.
Under Comparative negligence, liability is allocated based on each party’s share of fault. Comparative negligence lets you recover some compensation, even if you are partially responsible for your injuries. It also precludes the other party from being relieved of any liability simply because you were also negligent to some degree.
Under Comparative negligence, a judge or jury will evaluate all the factors involved and allocate a share of fault to each party. For instance, if you were allocated 30% of the fault and the other party was allocated 70%, you would still be able to recover 70% of your damages from the other party. But, under contributory negligence, you would have been barred from any recovery at all.
Types of Comparative Negligence
Most states follow a form of comparative negligence called Modified Comparative Fault. Under this form of comparative negligence, your recovery will be reduced by your own share of fault, as long as your share of fault is below 51% (50% in some states). If your share of fault is 51% or more, then you will be barred from recovering any compensation for your injuries.
For instance, if you are 70% at fault for a car accident and the other party is 30%, you will be barred from recovering any compensation from the other party. However, if you were only 30% at fault, then you could recover 70% of your damages from the other party.
California, on the other hand, is one of 23 states that follow a form of comparative negligence called Pure Comparative Fault. Under this rule, even if you are mostly to blame for your injuries, you can still recover from the other party. For instance, if you were 85% at fault and the other party was 15%, you would still be able to recover 15% of your damages from the other party.
Consult with an Expert California Personal Injury Lawyer
California follows the pure comparative fault rule, which allows you to recover compensation no matter how much at fault you are for your own injuries and losses. It is, therefore, always a good idea to consult with an experienced California personal injury lawyer, even if you are partly at fault for the accident in which you were injured.
Even if you are mostly to blame for your injuries, you may still be entitled to recover a portion of the compensation you need to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident in California, no matter who was at fault, contact eAccidents today at 844-400-0123 to arrange a free consultation. One of our expert California personal injury lawyers is standing by to help you understand your legal rights and options.