In California, the at-fault party for an auto accident is responsible for damages. The theory is straightforward in concept. However, it often becomes far more complicated in reality. There are many confounding factors that can make car accident liability difficult to calculate and assign.
For example, what happens when two or more drivers share blame for the same crash?
Here, our Long Beach car accident lawyers will discuss this issue and explain California’s comparative fault rules.
California is a Pure Comparative Negligence State
Prior to 1975, liability for California car accidents was assigned under an ‘all or nothing’ standard of contributory negligence.
If a car accident victim was responsible for even a small part of their own crash, they could not pursue recovery.
In the case of Li v. Yellow Cab Co., the Supreme Court of California issued the decision that dropped the ‘all or nothing’ standard.
The Court replaced the old rules for pure comparative fault rules.
Comparative Negligence Explained
Negligence is the failure to take due care in the course of action. A driver can be negligent for many different reasons, from speeding to distraction.
If a driver’s negligence contributed to a crash, then that driver is at least partially liable for the resulting damages or injuries.
This is where comparative negligence rules come into play. California’s comparative negligence standard states that the percentage of fault defines liability.
For example, imagine that two drivers collided in an accident on Interstate 405. In total, the crash caused $100,000 of damage. After assessing the case, a Jury finds one driver at-fault for 90 percent of the accident.
The second driver is responsible for the remaining 10 percent. In this circumstance, the first driver would be liable for $90,000 worth of damages. The other driver is responsible for the remaining $10,000.
Shared Liability Examples
Shared fault in an accident is incredibly common. In fact, it could be argued that most accidents involve some degree of proportional responsibility.
Here are some examples of accidents that are caused by the fault of two parties:
Four-way stop crash
Consider a situation in which two drivers arrive at a four-way stop at the same time. One driver intends to pass straight through the intersection; the other is planning on making a left-hand turn.
Rather than waiting to see which driver is going to proceed or yielding the right of way, both drivers immediately proceed through the intersection.
Another example is a crash in which both drivers actually signal to the other driver to proceed, and in the confusion, both proceed and hit each other.
Distracted driving and speeding crash
Consider a crash in which a texting driver fails to signal before changing lanes, side-swiping the vehicle to its right. The driver in the side-swiped vehicle suffers serious injuries.
Initially, it would appear that the texting driver is wholly to blame.
However, a review of the evidence unveils that the side-swiped driver was traveling much too fast at the time of the accident – 15 miles per hour over the speed limit.
As such, both drivers may be found comparatively negligent for the damages that resulted from the crash.
Pedestrian and distracted driver crash
The notion that the pedestrian ‘always has the right of way’ is untrue; drivers often have the right of way (although most drivers will yield if not doing so means hitting a pedestrian).
Consider a situation in which a driver is proceeding through an intersection, and takes a moment to look down at an incoming text. At exactly that moment, the pedestrian may not have the right of way steps off the curb, directly into the driver’s path.
Even though the driver had the right of way, they breached their duty to others on the road by driving while distracted, meaning both parties could be to blame.
Compensation for a Shared Liability Accident
Apportionment of liability becomes extremely important in shared fault auto accident claims.
If you are assigned even a few extra percentage points of the blame for a wreck, you could lose thousands of dollar of compensation.
Do not let this happen to you. You need to protect yourself and your family. Contact an aggressive car accident attorney after a serious car accident.
Especially if the other party disputes liability.
Your attorney will review the specific facts of your case. Then they’ll determine what to do to protect you from an unjust share of the blame.
What if I Disagree with a Fault Determination in a Shared Liability Car Accident?
It’s very possible that the insurance adjuster(s) responsible for investigating your case may reach a conclusion about the fault that you do not agree with and therefore offer you a settlement that is reflective of your supposed proportional fault that you do not think is fair.
When this is the case, you have the right to reject a settlement offer and renegotiate your compensation award. You also have the right to reject the settlement and file a lawsuit for compensation.
However, keep in mind that if your case goes to trial, you will need strong evidence in your favor in order for a court to side with you to overcome the defense’s point of view based on their investigation.
Our law firm strongly urges you to hire an experienced car accident settlements lawyer if you have not already done so at the point in the process when you are considering going to trial.
Request Your Free Consultation Now
The Beliz Law Firm has experience handling California accident claims. This includes complex cases involving shared liability. If another driver injured you in a crash, you deserve help.
Our lawyer will do as much as possible to help you understand what has shared liability and to maximize the amount of compensation you receive by proving the fault of the other party to the greatest degree possible.
Please call our Long Beach office today at (562) 452-3772.
Schedule your free, no-obligation initial case evaluation.