What Is Comparative Negligence in California?

by Staff Blogger | September 21st, 2020

Comparative negligence refers to the amount of fault assigned to everyone involved in an accident. California’s comparative negligence rule gives someone an opportunity to recover some percentage of damages from a crash, even if they were partially responsible for it. However, compensation is reduced in proportion to fault.

Understanding California’s laws regarding fault as it relates to compensation can help you better understand your legal options after an accident. Let’s look at how this law might be applied in practice.

An Example of Comparative Negligence in a Car Accident Case

San Francisco resident Steve is driving down Polk Street. Though the light is red, he turns onto Geary Street when he is struck by an oncoming vehicle. Steve didn’t see the vehicle when he turned on red, and he’d normally be considered at fault for the collision.

However, the police officer who responds to the scene finds that the driver of the oncoming vehicle that struck Steve’s car is intoxicated. Steve suffered injuries in the crash and demands compensation from the other driver’s insurance company, but the insurer refuses to pay any compensation because Steve turned on a red light without looking for oncoming vehicles.

The personal injury case Steve files goes to trial, where a jury determines that both drivers were 50% responsible for the collision. Steve’s damages total $100,000, but because he is deemed to be 50% at fault, he is awarded $50,000 in damages.

Though this is a completely hypothetical case, it illustrates how comparative fault might play out in a real-life legal dispute.

What Does Comparative Fault Mean for Crash Victims in California?

Each state has its own rules about fault in relation to compensation in injury and accident claims. California’s law is far more favorable for crash victims than laws in other states. Unless you are solely (100%) responsible for a crash, you have the right to get compensation for at least some of the damages you’ve suffered.

How Is Fault Determined After an Accident?

The police report often shapes the way fault is determined in a crash. However, once someone files a personal injury claim, the claimant’s attorney will investigate the circumstances of the crash to determine the true percentage of fault in a crash.

If you file a personal injury claim, your attorney will review the police report and all pertinent evidence that will help make your case. This evidence can often help establish a fairer percentage of fault for an accident.

After a Crash, You Can Improve Your Chances of a Successful Claim with These Steps

If you’re involved in a crash, call the police so they can send an officer to the scene. Cooperate with that officer and let them know what happened. If you see any witnesses to the crash, and you’re able to speak to them, ask them for their contact information. Take pictures of the scene and any vehicle damage you’ve experienced.

Perhaps most importantly, seek medical treatment as soon as possible after the crash. This ensures you get the care you need, and it establishes a timeline of your injuries, which is helpful when building an injury claim.

If You Need Help, Berg Injury Lawyers Is Here for You

At Berg Injury Lawyers, we represent injured people across Northern California. Our Bay Area personal injury attorneys have years of experience and extensive knowledge of comparative fault laws in California. Contact us today for a free consultation.