Like many states, California uses an at-fault system in determining liability for a car accident. That means that if you want to get compensation from an insurance claim or lawsuit after an accident, you have to prove that the other driver (or the driver’s employer in the case of commercial accidents) was at fault for the accident. While a Northern California car accident attorney can help you prove this, knowing how liability works can help you determine whether you may have a claim.
The premise behind any California car accident lawsuit is that the other driver was somehow negligent. This negligence can come in many forms, including:
Any time someone is breaking traffic laws or otherwise being unsafe given the driving conditions, they may be negligent and thus liable for damages. However, California does not necessarily assign all of the blame to one party or another. Instead, the state uses a system called “comparative negligence.”
In this scenario, two or more drivers may be to blame for the accident in different percentages. For example, if two drivers are drag racing and cause an accident that then causes you to get hurt, both drivers may be 50 percent at fault each. Furthermore, you may have to take on a percentage of the liability if you were speeding or breaking another traffic law when the wreck happened, even if it was not the primary cause of the crash.
If you are found partially liable for the wreck, you can still reclaim some of your lost expenses. For example, let’s say that your total damages come out to $100,000, but you are found to be 10 percent at fault for going a few miles over the speed limit. You would still recover $90,000.
With a complex comparative negligence system, determining who is at fault and by how much can be complicated. This process can involve many parts. First and foremost, involved parties will look at the police report. Since the police are typically there at the scene, interview all involved parties, and may talk to witnesses, they often provide fairly accurate pictures of what happened.
However, even the police can get it wrong sometimes. In these cases, your Northern California car accident attorney can conduct a private investigation into the matter. These investigations will look at many types of evidence, including:
These investigations rely heavily on evidence from the plaintiff. That’s why it’s essential to take pictures of the scene, jot down any details that come to mind, and take notes of any conversations you have about the accident. It’s also vital to hire an attorney as soon as possible.
California enforces statutes of limitations on car accident cases. Furthermore, evidence can be fleeting. That’s why anyone who might need to file a car accident lawsuit should contact a Northern California car accident attorney as soon as possible. If you need someone on your side, the Law Offices of Scott Righthand can help. Contact us today to set up your free consultation.
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