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California's "Comparative Negligence"

Sometimes the circumstances of an accident are complex and the matter of assigning fault is not simply a matter of identifying a single party. In asserting the details of an accident, you might find that multiple parties had a hand in causing it--or that you, the injured victim, also contributed. In these cases, how is fault assigned? Can you still pursue compensation even if you were partially responsible for the circumstances that harmed you?

In California, you can. While other states have stringent "all-or-nothing" laws for assigning fault, California has something called "comparative negligence" (or comparative fault). Comparative fault means that in a civil case, negligence is determined and assigned as percentage to the parties involved. This law not only makes holding multiple parties responsible for an accident easier, it also allows victims to pursue compensation even if they accidentally contributed to their own injury.

To explore how comparative negligence works, let's look at simple, theoretical example:

  • A victim sues for $10,000 for their injuries.
  • The jury finds the defendant to be 75% at fault for the injuries.
  • The jury also finds that the victim was 25% at fault.
  • The victim, then, is awarded $7,500.

In this example, the jury ruled in the victim's favor--but also found that he or she partially contributed to their own injury. Thus, they were awarded the amount they asked for, minus the percentage they were found at fault (in this example, 25%).

Accurately Asserting Your Role in the Incident

While comparative fault allows for much-needed flexibility when the court needs to parse complex circumstances, it also can allow defendants to overstate the victim's role in their own injury. This can minimize injuries, distort the facts, and, ultimately, lead to insufficient compensation.

Ensure that your role in your injury is aggressively and convincingly conveyed to the judge and jury. At the Law Office of Scott Righthand, P.C., our dedicated and award-winning legal team has been helping injury victims receive compensation for their pain and suffering for over three decades.

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