Personal Injury Claims and Comparative Negligence in California
Personal injury claims arise when a person suffers injuries as the result of another person or entity’s actions. In many cases, personal injury claims are based on someone having behaved negligently. Basically, negligence occurs when a person fails to act as a reasonably prudent person would in a certain situation, and as a result, someone is injured. Some typical examples of negligent behavior would include driving drunk, or texting while driving. In other situations, a doctor might be negligent for failing to diagnose a patient when they exhibited clear symptoms of a disease, or a shop owner might be negligent for failing to fix a step up to his or her shop that created a hazard for people entering or leaving their business. While some personal injury claims involve a person intentionally causing harm to another person, negligence claims are accidents, but they are accidents that occurred because someone did something extremely careless, or failed to do something that they should have done, thereby breaching the duty they owed to the person who suffered an injury.
When the injured person was negligent
One issue that frequently presents itself in personal injury cases is the fact that it is not uncommon for a person to have played a part in their own injury. For example, maybe you were speeding when you got into a car accident with someone who swerved into your lane because they were looking at their phone and not the road. Clearly, the person looking at their phone was negligent, but perhaps you were also negligent. It is possible that while the other driver was more at fault for the collision since they swerved into your lane, you might also be responsible. This is because you might have had the opportunity to avoid the other car had you been abiding by the speed limit, or the damage and injuries caused in the accident might not have been as severe if you had not been driving so fast.
In this type of situation, whether you can still recover for your injuries will depend on which state you were in when the accident occurred.
California’s Comparative Negligence Law
California practices “comparative negligence.” What this means is that when you play a part in your own injury, you often still have the ability to collect some compensation from the other party. In some states, where they practice “contributory negligence,” you would not be able to collect any compensation from another person if you were even the slightest bit responsible for your own injuries.
In the above example, where you were speeding and got into an accident with a texting driver who swerved into your lane, you could hypothetically be found to bear only 25% of the fault for that accident. Of course, there would be many factors considered in apportioning the fault to each driver, so the amount of fault might be much higher or lower. Assuming that you were found to be 25% to blame, and the texting driver was 75% to blame, you would have the ability to collect 75% of the damages for the injuries and property damage that you suffered.
Of course, if you were in the same accident, and the other driver suffered a great deal of damage, they would have the ability to collect 25% of their damages from you. This is because California practices “pure comparative negligence.” In many states, a person who was 50% or 51% or more responsible for their injuries will not be able to collect any damages.
Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.