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Comparative Negligence in California Personal Injury Cases

When individuals sustain injuries caused by the actions of others, they should be able to recover compensation for their medical bills, last income, and various other expenses. However, when there is more than one party at fault for the incident, we have to turn to comparative negligence laws. Each state around the country has laws in place that determine how to handle what happens when multiple parties are at fault, and California operates under a “pure comparative negligence” system.

What is Comparative Negligence

Every state in the US has a system in place to handle shared fault for personal injury claims. This includes shared fault for vehicle accidents, slip and fall incidents, other types of premises liability claims, etc.

The idea behind shared fault laws has to do with fairness. In most states, individuals are allowed to recover compensation if they are partially responsible for causing an incident. However, not every state handles shared fault the same way.

  • Some states use a contributory negligence system, which is rather harsh. In these states, individuals are unable to recover compensation if they share any portion of fault for the incident, even just 1%.
  • Other states use a modified comparative negligence system that typically allows individuals to recover compensation so long as they are not 50% or 51% responsible.
  • California, on the other hand, uses a pure comparative negligence system, which allows individuals to recover compensation no matter how much fault they had for an incident.

How Does California Handle Comparative Negligence?

California will allow individuals to recover compensation even if they are up to 99% responsible for causing their own injuries. However, that does not necessarily mean individuals will recover complete compensation for their losses.

For example, let us suppose an individual is attempting to merge onto the highway from an access road but is struck while merging by a reckless driver impaired by alcohol or drugs operating at 100 miles an hour. Let us also imagine that the driver who was struck sustained $100,000 worth of medical expenses and property damage bills.

On the face of it, it would seem like the individual would receive complete compensation for their losses. However, what if a jury or insurance carrier finds that the driver who was merging is partially responsible for the incident because they failed to use their turn signal? In this theoretical scenario, let us imagine that 40% of the blame was assigned to the merging driver. Under California’s pure comparative negligence system, the driver would receive $60,000 instead of the full $100,000, which is less due to their percentage of fault.

How You Can Fight Allegations of Shared Fault

It is absolutely critical that any personal injury victim reach out to an injury attorney in San Bernardino or anywhere in California, particularly if there are allegations of shared fault. These allegations often come from the other party, an insurance carrier, or a legal team. When you have a skilled personal injury lawyer by your side, you will have an advocate that is ready to investigate every aspect of your incident, uncover the evidence needed to prove what happened, and fight back against allegations of shared responsibility.