There are many accidents when one of the parties is 100 percent at fault. For example, you were sitting at a red light for 15 seconds, and you were suddenly rear-ended. Even though your car was propelled forward into the car in front of you, that second impact wasn’t your fault. It was the fault of the driver who hit you.
There are other scenarios when you might be partially at fault. For example, you’re driving a car, and you’re traveling at 5 mph over the limit on a four lane roadway. You’re in the right lane, and a car in the left lane suddenly changes lanes without signaling. The impact causes you to lose control of your vehicle, and you go off of the roadway and hit a telephone pole. You suffer serious injuries, and you sue the other driver who caused the crash by making the lane change.
When operating a motor vehicle, every driver has a legal duty to use due care and caution for his or her own personal safety. The rationale supporting comparative negligence is that the damages of a claimant should reduced by the percentage of negligence attributable to him or her. In the above example, this crash might never have happened had you not been speeding. Either the parties or a jury will decide the percentage of negligence attributable to the you as a result of speeding. That percentage of negligence attributable to the you will be deducted from your gross award. If it is determined that the you were 25 percent at fault for the crash, a $100,000 award would be reduced to $75,000.
Modified comparative negligence
Most states operate under a theory of modified comparative negligence. In states like Oregon or Illinois, if a claimant is found to be 51 percent or more at fault for his or her accident and injuries, their case fails in its entirety. In other states like Idaho or Nebraska, the claimant’s case fails at 50 percent.
Pure comparative negligence
The good news for you is that like 12 other states, California has been a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction since 1975. In these states, a jury can award a claimant the gross award minus the percentage of the claimant’s fault, even if the claimant was 99 percent at fault for the accident. The only way that the other side would get a not guilty verdict in your case is if you were found 100 percent at fault.
What if there are multiple defendants?
If two or more drivers cause injury to a person, he or she can bring personal injury claims against both of them. In that case, if one of two defendants is determined to be 25 percent at fault in an accident, he or she will only be responsible for a sum equal to 25 percent of the damages awarded.
So how do I prove I wasn’t partially at fault?
Unless the parties agree on a percentage of fault and a settlement, a jury is ultimately going to decide whether you were partially at fault in the crash. You’ll want strong evidence on your behalf. This might come in the form of:
- Any admissions of fault by an opposing party
- Testimony by the investigating police officer
- Testimony to anybody who witnessed the crash
- A plea of guilty to a traffic violation
- Traffic or security camera footage
Contact us right away if you’ve been injured in an accident for a free case consultation and evaluation. If we’re retained on your case, we don’t even get paid unless we obtain a settlement or verdict on your behalf.