Comparative Negligence in California
If you are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit in California for the first time, you are probably not familiar with the legal background necessary. Because of this, phrases like “comparative negligence” might seem completely unfamiliar. This concept is just one of many you might encounter as you file a lawsuit and strive to hold negligent parties accountable. Although hearing these phrases might leave you feeling confused, it is important to gain at least a cursory understanding of them. The truth is that comparative negligence can have a considerable impact on your lawsuit or injury claim.
Of course, you do not need to be alone as you strive for justice. If you are serious about filing a personal injury claim, you will undoubtedly need to enlist the help of an experienced personal injury attorney in California. With help from our legal professionals, , you can trust your attorney to handle the “heavy lifting” of your lawsuit, and you can leave the complex legal matters up to us.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that comes into play when personal injury lawsuits are filed. In simple terms, more than one person can be held accountable for injuries under this theory. Perhaps most notably, the injured victims themselves can still pursue legal action even if they were partially responsible for their own injuries. Due to this theory, injured victims can take legal action under a wide range of situations.
Comparative negligence also allows victims to hold more than one party accountable for their injuries. This can be useful, as it permits plaintiffs to pursue settlements from various people, ensuring that they receive the necessary compensation to deal with their medical expenses, missed wages, and other damages. The theory of comparative negligence commonly comes into into the picture in when people become injured in traffic accidents. This is because it is often difficult to figure out who was actually to blame for certain collisions.
How is Comparative Negligence Handled in California?
It is important to note that each state handles the concept of comparative negligence in different ways. Some disregard it completely and choose to employ other legal doctrines instead. For those states that do use comparative negligence, not all use the same exact system. There are different ways in which a state can apply comparative negligence, including:
- Pure comparative negligence
- Modified comparative negligence
- Slight/Gross comparative negligence
With the exception of South Dakota, all states that follow comparative negligence laws adopt either a system of “pure comparative negligence” or “modified comparative negligence.”
California follows a system of pure comparative negligence. This is perhaps the best system for victims, as it means that they can recover settlements in a wider range of situations. Essentially, there is no limit to the application of comparative negligence in California. Even someone who is 99% responsible for their own injuries could theoretically file a lawsuit against the party who was 1% responsible.
However, what you do need to consider in this system is how your final settlement amount will be affected. Although you can still file a lawsuit if you were 99% responsible for your own injuries, this would typically not be done as your settlement amount would be quite low. This is because your settlement amount directly reflects the degree to which you were responsible for the accident. In other words, you would only receive 1% of the settlement that you would have otherwise received.
Once again, there is no limit to this system. You could file a lawsuit and show that a negligent party was 100% responsible for your accident. In this case, you would receive 100% of your settlement. Or perhaps you and another driver were both equally responsible for the crash. In this case, your settlement amount would be decreased by your percentage of fault of 50%..
This system is markedly different compared to modified comparative negligence. States who follow a system of modified comparative negligence put limits on how far it goes. Generally speaking, these states bar plaintiffs from taking legal action if they are approximately 50% or more responsible for their own actions.
California does not have this problem, although it is still important for your attorney to prove that your negligence was not a major factor in the accident. When you are dealing with a settlement that could be worth millions of dollars, even a few percentage points can be worth fighting for.
What is the Alternative to Comparative Negligence?
The alternative to comparative negligence is something called contributory negligence. Under this system, plaintiffs are barred from taking legal action even if they were 1% responsible for their own injuries. In other words, the fault has to lie completely on someone else’s shoulders in order for you to hold them accountable. At one point in America’s history, all states followed this system. Today, only a handful of states have continued to uphold these laws.
Examples of Comparative Negligence in Action
To help you understand how comparative negligence works in California, here are a few examples:
- Example One: A car is pulling out of a parking space, but the driver does not look before they move the vehicle onto the street. As a result, they impact a car that is traveling in the adjacent lane. However, the driver of that vehicle was texting at the time of the collision, and was too distracted to keep their eyes on the road. As a result, the judge determines that each driver is 50% at fault. Therefore, they receive 50% of their $10,000 settlement and walk away with $5,000.
- Example Two: A car is speeding and approaching an intersection. There is no stop sign, so the driver can go through the intersection without stopping. Another driver, who is driving below the speed limit, approaches the intersection. Unlike the speeding driver, there is a stop sign for this second driver. However, this driver does not stop, and she impacts the speeding car in the intersection. A judge decides that the driver who was speeding through the intersection is 25% at fault, and the driver who failed to stop at the stop sign is 75% at fault. Therefore, the driver who is 75% at fault receives just $250,000 of a $1 million settlement.
Enlist the Help of a Qualified Attorney Today
If you are serious about pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, you need to enlist the help of the most qualified attorney you can find. Reach out to the experienced attorneys at Mary Alexander & Associates. We know that terms like “comparative negligence”, “statute of limitations”, and “plaintiff” can all sound pretty confusing for someone with no legal experience. We are ready and willing to guide you forward. If you would like us to explain certain details of your lawsuit, we can certainly do that. Book your consultation today, and we can discuss all of your concerns, goals, and priorities.