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What Is Comparative Negligence in California?

Comparative negligence is a legal concept California follows that allows more than one party to share blame in a personal injury accident. Injured victims may have their compensation reduced if they are found partially to blame.

Maison Law represents victims injured in California personal injury accidents. We protect victims from having fault pinned on them in an accident they didn’t cause. We help victims secure the support they need to recover. If you are hurt due to someone else’s negligence, contact a skilled California Personal Injury Lawyer and schedule a free consultation. It’s a no-risk way to determine what your injury is worth and how to fight back if you are being unfairly blamed for what happened.

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How Does California’s Comparative Negligence Work?

Sometimes accidents occur, and the victim is partially at fault. When that victim pursues compensation for their injuries, the party who is allegedly at fault may insist that the victim was a partial cause of the accident and his or her own injuries and damages.

Such allegations are often seen in intersection accidents, slip-and-falls and trip-and-falls, and bicycle and pedestrian accidents. One driver can point to another motorist’s speeding as the cause, but the first driver may not have obeyed the right-of-way at a four-way stop. In a slip-and-fall accident at a supermarket chain, corporate lawyers may try to show that the injured victim was looking at a cell phone while walking when they hit an obstacle and fell.

If a settlement isn’t reached, a jury will determine what percentage of fault, if any, is attributable to the victim pursuant to California Civil Jury Instruction 405. That percentage of fault is then deducted from the victim’s award. For example, if a victim is determined by a jury to have been 20% at fault for an accident, a $100,000 award would be reduced to $80,000 based on 20% negligence. That’s what’s known as the law of comparative negligence. California is a state that recognizes the law of comparative negligence as opposed to contributory negligence. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Comparative Negligence Case?

If your accident results in something more than a few bumps and bruises and property damage, you should speak to a lawyer about your case. When an incident results in a serious injury, like a fractured bone or a neck or back injury, insurance adjusters arm themselves with well-worn tactics meant to limit the support they must pay you. Those tactics can include questioning your role in the accident.

A lawyer acts as a safeguard when car insurance companies are trying to blame you for an accident. An adjuster may not be able to get you to accept 100% of the blame, but if they can get you to accept 25% or 50%, they might save their companies a lot of money. That leaves you and your family paying some medical bills out of pocket.

Your California personal injury lawyer fights back by presenting the evidence, such as accident reports, witness testimony, and surveillance video. Your lawyer makes sure that if you were partly to blame for an accident the majority of the liability isn’t unfairly heaped onto you. Your lawyer battles to get your responsibility as low as possible. And if your accident really wasn’t your fault at all, your lawyer goes to work making sure you don’t have to accept any blame at all.

Pure Comparative Negligence in California

Some states are modified comparative negligence states, while others are pure comparative negligence states. Fortunately for victims, California is known as a pure comparative negligence state. In pure comparative negligence states, accident victims are allowed to recover damages even if they were 99% at fault for an accident.

The compensation would be reduced by their level of fault, but in some cases, a comparative negligence award can still provide substantial support to pay medical bills and other damages.

In some states, if a victim is found to be 50% negligent in an accident, he or she is barred from receiving any compensation at all. In other modified comparative negligence states, that percentage is 51%. Thankfully, California allows people dealing with injuries to seek help, even if they bear some liability for what happened.

Comparative Negligence Involving Accidents with Multiple At-Fault Parties

There are times when three or more parties are at fault in an accident. The same fault apportionment rules are used in these cases. A jury can determine the percentage of fault attributable to each party pursuant to California Civil Jury Instruction 406.

Compensation Available in a Pure Comparative Negligence Accident

Even partial comparative negligence compensation can help an injured victim recover physically and financially after a personal injury accident.

A lawyer would be working to maximize any support provided by an at-fault party. That would include every benefit available after a frightening accident.

Your lawyer will be demanding support for some things you may not have known could add to your settlement check or courtroom judgment amount:

  • Support for all medical expenses for as long as recovery takes.
  • Physical pain and emotional distress in the accident and during recovery.
  • Compensation for a loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Compensation for a loss of consortium (the loss of intimacy with family members).
  • Travel costs getting to and from doctor’s visits and surgery consultations.
  • Property damage.
  • Past and future lost earnings.
  • Wrongful death benefits. Families who have lost a close relative in a personal injury accident can file a wrongful death claim to receive support with burial expenses. They’ll also seek help with making up the income the victim can no longer provide close relatives. This support is possible even if a loved one partially contributed to a deadly accident.

Don’t Give a Statement of Any Kind

One or more opposing insurance companies will be trying to reduce their financial exposure with comparative negligence allegations against you. Don’t give them statements of any kind. California law doesn’t require you to do that, and it’s likely that your own words will only be used against you in the future. Don’t allow an insurance company to try to threaten or intimidate you into giving a statement either. Contact us at Maison Law instead for a free confidential consultation and case review.

Contact a California Comparative Negligence Lawyer

The fact that you are alleged to be comparatively negligent gives more reason to retain a knowledgeable and skilled personal injury lawyer to represent you immediately after an accident.

When allegations of comparative negligence are made, our objective is to maximize the compensation that you deserve by diminishing any percentage of fault that might be attributable to you. Preserve and protect your right to the highest amount of compensation available to you by contacting a California personal injury lawyer at Maison Law right away after being injured in any accident.

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