What Is Comparative Negligence in California?

California's Comparative Fault Laws | Law Offices of Mickey Fine

In order to recover financial compensation after an accident, you need to be able to prove that someone else was at fault. So, what happens when you are partially at fault for your own injuries?

The answer to this question varies from state to state. Fortunately, California has one of the most favorable laws for accident victims in the entire country. This is California’s “pure comparative fault” law.

At the Law Offices of Mickey Fine, our Bakersfield car accident attorney has been fighting on behalf of injury victims for more than 25 years. We can explain your rights and pursue the full and fair compensation to which you may be entitled under the law.

Comparative Negligence in Vehicle Collisions and Other Accidents

The concept of “comparative negligence” or “comparative fault” governs accident victims’ legal rights when they are partially to blame for their own injuries. Since liability is determined based on fault, when an accident victim is partially at fault, this impacts the amount that he or she is able to recover in a personal injury claim.

Under California’s pure comparative fault law, when an accident victim is partially at fault, his or her financial recovery is reduced in direct proportion to his or her percentage of fault. This is true regardless of how great of a role the victim played in causing the accident. While some states only allow victims to recover compensation if they are less than 51% or 50% at fault, in California no such limitations apply.

3 Examples of Cases Involving California’s Pure Comparative Fault Law

This can be a bit difficult to understand in the abstract. So, let’s look at a few examples:

Example 1: You Were Less at Fault than the Other Driver

You were driving on the Golden State Highway, going slightly above the posted speed limit. All of a sudden, another vehicle came flying up behind you, and it clipped your rear bumper as it attempted to pass you in heavy traffic. You lost control and suffered broken bones in the car accident.

In this scenario, it is highly likely that the other driver will be found primarily liable for your injuries. But, since you were speeding slightly, the insurance companies may try to place a portion of the blame on you as well. Let’s say you are found to be 5% at fault and your losses total $100,000. In this scenario, you would be entitled to recover 95% of your losses, or $95,000.

Example 2: You and the Other Driver Were Equally at Fault

You were late for work. As you approached an intersection with a long light, you made the decision to go through just after the light turned red. Unfortunately, another driver approaching from the opposite direction made the same decision; and, when that driver tried to turn left in front of you, you collided almost head-on. You suffered a concussion and other serious traumatic injuries in the crash.

This is a complicated scenario. While there are a number of potential outcomes, for the sake of our example we’ll assume that a jury would find you and the other driver equally at fault. If your losses total $100,000, you would be entitled to recover 50% of your losses, or $50,000.

Example 3: You Were Primarily at Fault in the Accident

Example 3 is the same as Example 2, except instead of colliding with a driver who ran the light from the opposite direction, you T-boned a driver whose light had just turned green. The driver didn’t see you because he or she was reading a text message.

In this scenario, you would likely be found primarily at fault. Had you not run the red light, the accident would not have happened. But, the other driver may have also had an opportunity to avoid the collision had he or she been paying attention. Let’s say you are found to be 95% at fault and your total losses are $100,000. In this scenario, you would be entitled to recover 5% of your losses, or $5,000.

California’s Pure Comparative Fault Law Applies to All Types of Accidents

While the above examples all involve auto accidents, California’s pure comparative fault law applies to all types of personal injury claims. If you slipped and fell, if you were injured at work, or if you were injured in any other scenario in which you think someone else may be at least partially responsible, you can – and should – consult with a Bakersfield personal injury lawyer about your legal rights.

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Do you have questions about your legal rights following an accident in Bakersfield? If so, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Car Accident
by Mickey Fine Law
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