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  • By: Moss Bollinger
  • Published: December 20, 2022
A man capturing a photo of a car accident scene - Moss Bollinger LLP

When you are hurt by someone else’s negligent act of behavior on the road, you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit. Filing a California personal injury lawsuit can be helpful – especially if you are injured in a car accident. Medical bills, physical rehabilitation, and necessary time off work to recover can cause significant financial hardship, and a personal injury lawsuit can help you recover damages. However, most situations are not starkly black or white, yes or no, my fault or his fault. In many California car accidents, the blame (or liability) for the accident can be placed at the feet of more than one party.

How Does Comparative Negligence Work In California Car Accidents?

After a car accident, you may worry that your negligence (even if it was minimal compared to the other party’s) could prevent you from successfully filing a personal injury lawsuit. However, California law provides a particular legal doctrine called “comparative negligence” to address this situation. If you share part of the blame or liability in a car accident, you may still be able to get the financial relief you need.

Types Of Negligence In California Car Accidents:

Each state in the U.S. has its own rules for personal injury lawsuits. Generally, negligence can be interpreted in two ways depending on state law: contributory negligence or comparative negligence.

Contributory & Comparative Negligence: What’s The Difference?

Under the contributory negligence doctrine, the plaintiff doesn’t qualify for damages if they hold any liability for the accident, but comparative negligence is different. Under the comparative negligence doctrine, the plaintiff and the defendant can each be partially liable for damages caused by a car accident. California courts apply comparative negligence for personal injury lawsuits. Using comparative negligence, if the court finds both parties in a car accident lawsuit hold partial liability, they determine the percentage of liability that applies to the plaintiff. The percentage of liability determines the percentage of compensation subtracted from the total before the plaintiff is awarded damages.

What Are “Damages” In A California Car Accident Lawsuit?

When discussing a personal injury lawsuit or California car accident lawsuit, damages refers to the amount of money a plaintiff can recover.

California is a Pure Comparative Negligence State:

California can be described as a pure comparative negligence state because a person’s potential damages may be reduced according to their percentage of fault (which is typically represented by a specific percentage determined by the court). Consider this example. A plaintiff in a California car accident lawsuit is found 10% liable for a car accident. The court determines that based on the situation, the medical bills, their injury, their lost compensation from work past and future, etc. the total damages are $100,000. They will be awarded $90,000. The percentage of liability is the same percentage subtracted from the total damages. Partial fault can be placed in many scenarios, but one example is two vehicles involved in a car accident in the middle of an intersection. One of the vehicles ran a red light, and the other vehicle’s driver was sending a text message while driving. While most of the fault is on the individual who ran the red light, partial liability can be assigned to the driver who was distracted while driving due to texting.

Determining Liability Under Comparative Negligence:

If the texting driver in the above example filed a personal injury lawsuit, the other driver’s attorney could claim the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident because they were distracted while driving. The judge could conclude that based on the scenario, the texter was 10% responsible for the car accident, while the driver who ran the red light was 90% responsible. If the award for damages was set at $100,000, comparative negligence would reduce it by 10% (the amount of liability assigned to the plaintiff), leaving the plaintiff with $90,000 instead of the total $100,000 amount of damages.

Proving Comparative Negligence Claims In Court:

In California car accident cases, there is a good chance that the other driver’s attorney will claim the plaintiff was at least partially responsible for the accident and, thus, partly liable for their own injuries. When presenting a comparative negligence claim, the defendant must prove that the plaintiff was negligent and that the plaintiff’s negligence was a significant factor in causing the injuries. However, because California is a pure comparative negligence state, the plaintiff in the case would still be able to collect an award if they were found up to 99% fault.

If you are injured and need to file a California car accident claim, contact Moss Bollinger, Sherman Oaks, California personal injury attorney. He’s dedicated to protecting and asserting the rights of his clients. Call (310) 982-2291 today for a free consultation, or contact us online.

Moss Bollinger LLP - Sherman Oaks, CA

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