California Comparative Negligence Laws

Suffering a traumatic injury is something you simply can’t prepare for. When someone else is at fault for causing your accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. But if you share fault for the accident, you may be worried this will complicate matters.

A personal injury attorney at Kohan and Bablove could help you get the compensation you need to rebuild your life following an accident. The laws for how shared fault could have an impact on your personal injury lawsuit will vary on a state-by-state basis. For the purposes of this article, we will be primarily looking at how California’s shared fault laws could influence the amount of your personal injury award.

How Comparative Fault Works in California

California is a pure comparative negligence state. When a state follows a pure comparative fault system, people who are seriously injured in an accident, but share fault for their injuries, can still be awarded compensation for their losses.
In fact, pure comparative negligence laws allow for injury victims to be awarded compensation no matter how much fault they carry for causing the accident. You could be ninety-nine percent at fault for the accident and still seek compensation for that one percent of fault that isn’t yours.
If you previously thought sharing fault for an accident in California would prevent you from being awarded compensation, you will be pleased to learn you may still have grounds for a civil lawsuit. With that being said, sharing fault for an accident will almost certainly have an impact on the amount of your injury settlement.

The Impact of Shared Fault on Your Lawsuit

Despite the fact you can be awarded compensation when you share fault for an accident, your injury settlement will surely be affected as well. Pure comparative fault does not mean you will not be held accountable for your portion of fault. You still need to answer for your own negligence.
The court ensures this is done by reducing the amount of your injury settlement. The amount your award will be reduced will depend on how much fault you carry. The details of your case will be carefully analyzed to determine what percentage of blame is yours. This is the amount your award will be reduced by.
For example, let’s say the judge determines you are thirty percent at fault for causing your car accident. You then sue the party that is seventy percent at fault. The jury awards you $100,000 for your financial and non-financial damages. But since you are thirty percent at fault, your $100,000 award is reduced by thirty percent. Your final award ends up being $70,000.
As can be seen, the impact of shared fault can dramatically decrease the amount of your award. For this reason, you will want a legal advocate who can fight to ensure your share of blame is fairly assessed.

How Does Shared Fault Work in Other States?

This is how shared fault laws work in the state of California. Every state has their own shared fault laws. There are three types of contributory fault systems a state can follow:
  • Pure comparative fault, as we see in CA
  • Modified comparative fault
  • Pure contributory fault
Some states follow modified comparative fault systems. Here, there is a limit on how much fault an injury victim can carry and still be awarded compensation. The percentage is usually somewhere between forty-nine and fifty-one percent. Here, those who share fault will also have their injury settlements reduced in proportion to their percentage of blame.

Conversely, only a handful of states follow pure contributory negligence systems. This is because they are the least victim-friendly shared fault systems. Here, if you are even one percent at fault for your injuries, you are barred from being awarded compensation. 

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Posted - 10/28/2021