Many accidents happen because multiple mistakes combine and create a “perfect storm” for a collision. California law has rules for apportioning the financial liability among the two or more negligent parties. These situations can be complicated, with each insurance company saying that the other party has to pay all of the losses.
If you do not want to get stuck with paying for the mistakes of other people and you want your losses paid by the liable party, you will be smart to talk to a California personal injury attorney. Read on if you are wondering, what if I think I was partially at fault for a car accident in California?
How California Applies the Rule of Comparative Fault
In some states, you cannot get any money for your injuries and other losses if you were even one percent at fault in causing the collision. California does not treat accident victims that way. Instead, our state uses the comparative fault rule, which apportions an injured person’s compensation by comparing the relative fault of the parties.
By way of example, if you were 20 percent at fault and had $100,000 in losses, the comparative fault rule would reduce your $100,000 in damages by 20 percent, $20,000, to account for your negligence. You could go after $80,000 in damages.
Let’s say that the other driver was 80 percent at fault and also had losses of $100,000. After the 80 percent reduction of his damages for his negligence, he could seek $20,000 in compensation.
California follows the “pure” comparative fault rule, meaning that, as long as someone else was at least one percent at fault, you could seek compensation for your losses. Some other states have a cut-off for comparative fault. In those states, you cannot get any money damages if you were responsible for 50 percent of the negligence or whatever percentage that state uses.
Why You Should Not Assume That You Were at Fault in an Accident
You will not want to fall into the trap of thinking that you were partially at fault just because you were one of the drivers in the crash. Fault involves more than merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Before a court can order you to pay money damages to someone, the other party will have to prove these four things:
- You had a legal duty of care, like the obligation to obey the traffic laws.
- You violated the duty; for example, you drove over the speed limit. That conduct is negligence.
- Your negligence caused or contributed to the accident happening.
- The other party seeking compensation sustained measurable losses, like physical injury from the accident.
If the other party cannot provide credible evidence that shows all of those factors, you are not liable for the collision or the other side’s losses. If something other than your actions, like someone else running a red light, caused the crash, you are not at fault.
A California personal injury attorney can evaluate your situation and advocate for you after a car accident. Contact our office today for a free consultation.