At The Dominguez Firm, we understand the complexities of comparative fault laws and how they can affect your car accident claim. With over 35 years of experience, a 96%* success rate, and more than $1 billion* recovered for our clients, you can trust that you’re in good hands with us. We know that navigating these laws can be tricky and confusing, so let us help you understand the impact of comparative fault on your case and work with you every step of the way to ensure that your rights are protected.
What is the Comparative Fault Law in California?
In California, the law of comparative fault allows two or more parties to share blame and responsibility for an accident. It also assigns liability based on the degree of blame assigned to each party. This means that even if one person is primarily responsible for an accident, they may not be held liable for all resulting damages. Instead, their responsibility will depend on the degree of their fault compared to the other parties involved. For example, if Person A is 90% at fault and Person B is 10% at fault for an accident, Person A would be responsible for 90% of the damages caused by the accident.
Comparative Negligence Laws in California
California stands out with its approach to personal injury cases, having a “pure comparative fault” system. While in many other states, victims of an accident couldn’t sue for damages if they were more than 50% at fault, Californians can still get some compensation even when up to 99% responsible!
Insurance Companies and Comparative Fault
When filing a claim with an insurance company, remember that they will conduct their own investigation into who was at fault and assign blame accordingly before deciding how much money (if any) they are willing to pay out on a claim. As such, it’s essential that you retain a personal injury lawyer to represent your best interest and protect your rights.
The Different Comparative Fault Systems
Pure Comparative Fault System
In a pure comparative fault system, such as the one that California follows, each party involved in an accident is assigned a portion of the responsibility based on the level of negligence they contributed to the accident. For example, suppose you were found to be 60% responsible for an accident, and the other driver was found to be 40% responsible. Even though you’re determined to be more at fault for your accident, you can still sue the other driver for your injuries. The court would simply subtract 60% from your final settlement or verdict amount.
Modified Comparative Fault System
California does not follow the modified comparative fault system, which states that if one party is more than 50% at fault for an accident, they cannot seek compensation from any other parties involved. So, if you were found to be 45% responsible while another driver was 55%, you can still seek compensation from them since your percentage of responsibility does not exceed 50%. However, if you were found to be 51% responsible, then the other driver would not have to compensate you for any damages from the accident.
The Process of Determining Fault Percentages in a Car Accident
In California, fault percentages determine the percentage of liability for each driver involved in an accident. This means that if more than one person is deemed responsible for an accident, they will be assigned a certain percentage of fault. As such, they may also be held responsible for paying a certain percentage of the damages incurred by the other party.
When determining fault percentages, courts typically use several factors to assess each driver’s contribution to the crash, including:
- Speed limits and whether either party broke any traffic laws at the time of the crash.
- Eyewitness testimony may also be called upon as evidence for determining fault percentages.
- Police reports are often considered and can play an important role when assigning fault percentages.
Insurance Companies Assess Fault Percentages Too
In addition to court proceedings, insurance companies may also assess fault percentages when reviewing claims following an accident. Insurance companies may use their own criteria and methods to assess fault percentages and determine who should receive compensation after an accident. They often review police reports and other evidence related to the crash before deciding and assigning liability accordingly.
What Should I Do if Liability is Unclear?
If you are involved in a car accident and it’s unclear who was at fault, you need the services of an experienced car accident lawyer right away. This is especially true if you suffered serious injuries. You don’t want to take on the insurance companies by yourself in this sort of scenario. Their adjusters are trained and negotiate for a living, you probably aren’t. And they aren’t looking to give you a fair offer, even if you did suffer major injuries. If there are questions of liability, they will try to use it against you, unfair as that may seem.
How Can I Protect Myself During Settlement Negotiations?
Once you’ve hired a personal injury lawyer, let them handle your case for you. Don’t contact the insurance company on your own and don’t speak to them if they call you. Politely tell them they can speak to your lawyer moving forward, that’s it.
The Importance of Gathering Evidence to Minimize Your Fault Percentage
If you are physically able, take pictures of the accident scene immediately after it occurs. Take pictures of any visible damage to vehicles and property, debris that may be spread across the roadway, skid marks on the pavement, drivers and passengers involved in the incident, and anything else that could provide evidence about what happened during the crash.
It is also important to get contact information for any witnesses at the scene who may have seen something that could help determine who was at fault for the accident.
Seek Medical Treatment
If you or anyone involved in the crash has been injured, seek medical treatment immediately. You should not wait until later. Even if your injuries seem minor initially, they can worsen over time if left untreated. Additionally, having documentation of your medical care will help prove that your injuries were caused by the car accident and were not pre-existing conditions. This could be crucial when it comes time to file an insurance claim or lawsuit against those responsible for causing the crash.
Work With a Skilled Car Accident Attorney to Navigate Comparative Fault Laws
To maximize your chances of recovering compensation for any damages that resulted from the accident, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after your crash. Your attorney will help with evidence, proof of fault and all negotiations with the insurance company. They’ll work hard so you receive fair compensation for your losses caused by the other driver’s negligence.
Navigating comparative fault laws can be challenging, but with the right car accident lawyer, you can obtain fair compensation for your injuries and losses. At The Dominguez Firm, we have helped clients receive over $1 billion* over our 35 years. We’re also proud of our 96%* success rate. We understand how to leverage evidence so that insurance companies cannot deny or reduce claims due to comparative fault issues. If you were seriously injured in an auto accident, contact us today for a free consultation at (800) 818-1818. Let us assist you.