Comparative Fault in California Personal Injury Cases


The vast majority of states in the U.S. recognize that many cases that result in a serious injury are not black and white. That is to say, just because you may be partially at fault in a traffic accident or partially negligent in an action that resulted in an injury, doesn’t mean that the other party is completely off the hook.

California allows for what is called “comparative fault” or “comparative negligence”. Here, we’ll talk about what it means in personal injury cases.

What is Negligence?

Negligence is a legal concept that underlies the vast majority of personal injury cases. Negligence means that either by action or inaction, one party failed a duty of caution or care and this failure resulted in an injury to another person.

In order to prove negligence in a court of law, three elements but be shown:

1. The defendant had a duty of care;
2. The defendant breached that duty; and
3. This breach resulted in an injury.

For instance, a proprietor who runs a fast-food restaurant has a duty to ensure that the floors don’t have a slipping hazard. If someone slips and falls due to the proprietor’s failure to clean the slipping hazard, the proprietor can be held liable for negligence. They will be responsible for any injuries that result from that negligence.

A driver has a duty of care to drive safely and obey traffic laws and traffic signals. When the driver breaches that duty, they can be held liable for negligence. They will be responsible for any injuries that result from that negligence.

What is Comparative Fault?

In many cases, accidents happen because two parties are at fault. For instance, a cyclist may be hit by a car. The cyclist failed to stop at a crosswalk, but the driver was speeding when he hit the cyclist. In this case, both parties are partially to blame.

In this case, the cyclist has sustained the brunt of the injuries while the driver has minor damage to his car.

Lawyers for the cyclist say that had the driver not been speeding, the extent of the cyclist’s injuries would not have been as a high as they were. Meanwhile, lawyers arguing on behalf of the driver’s insurance company say that the cyclist’s failure to yield the right of way to the driver caused the accident.

As it turns out, the court agrees with attorneys for both sides and assigns 65% of the blame to the cyclist and 35% of the blame to the driver.

However, the cyclist’s total damages were somewhere in the range of $100,000. But since the cyclist was to 65% to blame for the accident, the cyclist is only entitled to 35% of the damages, which is still a significant amount of money: $35,000.

The moral of the story is: just because you may be mostly at fault in an accident, doesn’t mean the driver is off the hook for their negligence. You still deserve to be compensated.

Contact Us for Help Today

For more information on comparative fault and pursuing damages in an accident that you’ve been involved with, please contact Wakeford Law Firm in Marin County at (415) 569-7495. You can also contact us online. Regardless of how at-fault they say you are, an attorney can secure you a sizeable settlement. Contact us today and we’ll begin discussing your case right away.

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