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Understanding Comparative Negligence in California Injury Cases

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Posted By DAM Firm | October 3 2023 | Personal Injury

Comparative negligence laws in California matter when there is more than one party responsible for causing an incident. Under these laws, individuals who are partially responsible for causing their own injuries can still recover compensation from a negligent party. However, there are stipulations.

Here, we want to discuss the pure comparative negligence system in California, focusing on how shared fault can affect the total amount of compensation a person receives. If you have any questions about comparative negligence for your particular claim, we encourage you to reach out to your Orange County personal injury attorney who can help you with this process.

Understanding Comparative Negligence

Why Comparative Negligence Matters

Comparative negligence laws are designed to help make personal injury claims more fair. For example, should individuals be barred from recovering compensation if they have any shared fault for an incident? In most situations, states have determined that this would not be fair. Comparative negligence laws are designed to help adequately apportion blame between the parties involved in an incident so that the right individuals receive the correct amount of compensation.

In California and in a few other states around the country, a pure comparative negligence system is employed. This means that individuals can recover compensation even if they are up to 99% responsible for causing their own injury. However, the total amount of compensation a person receives will be reduced depending on their percentage of fault.

In most other states around the country, the cutoff for recovering compensation is typically at 50% or 51%, as opposed to 99%. In a few states, individuals are even barred from recovering compensation if they are only 1% responsible for causing their injury. These are considered contributory negligence states.

Example of a Shared Fault Scenario

Let us suppose that a person sustains a severe whiplash injury and property damage due to a rear-end accident. In most situations, a rear driver will typically be at fault for an incident, but that does not mean they are always at fault or always 100% at fault.

For this scenario, let us imagine that the individual sustains $100,000 worth of medical expenses and property damage due to the incident. However, let us suppose that a jury determines the victim was 40% responsible for causing the injury because two of their three brake lights were out. In this case, the individual would receive $60,000 instead of the full $100,000. Using these simplified numbers, we can see that the overall compensation was reduced by $40,000, equivalent to their 40% of blame for the incident.

Why an Attorney is Important 

It is crucial to have a skilled personal injury attorney by your side if there are any allegations of shared fault after an injury occurs. It is not uncommon for at-fault parties and their insurance carriers or legal teams to try and shift some or all of the blame onto other parties involved, including the injury victim.

When you have an attorney on your side, you will have an advocate ready to investigate the claim and push back against any allegations of shared fault that could see you receive reduced compensation amounts. Your attorney will be your advocate when negotiating with insurance carriers or in front of a personal injury jury.

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