How Does Comparative Negligence Impact Personal Injury Claims in California?

How Does Comparative Negligence Impact Personal Injury Claims in California?

Comparative negligence may reduce the amount that a person receives for a personal injury claim in California. While it is rare that comparative negligence completely prevents the victim from receiving monetary compensation, a victim may need to spend extra time and care responding to allegations of negligence.

California recognizes comparable negligence This means that even if a person is at fault for a crash, California allows the parties to apportion the fault to each driver. Therefore, even if you feel you are at fault for an accident, you may still recover from the other driver.

Our San Bernardino personal injury lawyers at LA Century Law explain comparative negligence and its impact on personal injury claims in California.

Understanding Comparative Negligence: A Legal Overview

If you’re hurt because of negligence, you may have the right to monetary compensation through a personal injury claim. But what if you’re partly to blame too? Can you still receive compensation? How is the amount of compensation determined if there is a shared fault?

These questions are part of the law of comparative negligence.

What is the comparative negligence rule in California?

California Civil Code § 1714 is the comparative negligence law. It says:

Everyone is responsible for willful acts and injury to another by want of ordinary care or skill in the management of their property or person except so far as the victim has, willfully or by lack of care, brought the injury on themselves.

Pure comparative negligence – the law in California

  • California recognizes comparative negligence.
  • If comparative negligence applies, it reduces the plaintiff’s compensation.
  • The amount of the reduction is the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.
  • With a pure comparative negligence rule, there is no cliff effect – or threshold percentage of fault where a victim recovers nothing. Even if the defendant is only 1% at fault, in theory, the victim may recover compensation.
  • A jury (or judge) decides the percentage of fault, based on the actions of each party in the case.

Example of Pure Comparative Negligence in California

Let’s look at an example of how pure comparative negligence may affect a case.

The victim is jaywalking across the street. They don’t look for oncoming traffic before they cross.

The defendant is driving and is also texting. By the time the driver notices the victim, it’s too late.

The defendant strikes the victim. Damages in the case total $100,000.

At trial, the jury determines that the defendant is 40% negligent. They say that 60% of the blame is on the victim for failing to look before jaywalking.

Because the victim is 60% at fault, their total damages award is reduced by 60%, or $60,000. The victim receives $40,000 in compensation.

Does the 50% rule for comparative negligence apply in California?

No. California does not apply the 50% rule for comparative negligence, where a victim may not receive compensation if they are 50% or more at fault. Some states use this threshold, denying compensation outright where the person is half or more than half to blame. However, California has not adopted the rule.

Where does California’s comparative negligence law come from?

The California Supreme Court first adopted the state comparative negligence law in the 1975 court opinion Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3d 804 (1975). In addition, legislators passed California Civil Code § 1714 to make comparative negligence the statutory law throughout the state.

How Fault Is Determined in California Personal Injury Cases

Fault in California personal injury cases is decided on a case-by-case basis. There’s no list to reference for what is negligent conduct and what is not (although violating a law may prove a breach of duty). The jury looks at what happened in each circumstance.

A person must do, at a minimum, what an ordinary, reasonable person would have done in that situation. If they fail in their duty, they may be at fault for a personal injury case.

Legal Strategies To Minimize Your Fault Percentage

To minimize your fault percentage, you must anticipate how the defendant might raise comparative negligence. You must prepare evidence and arguments and be prepared to address factual disputes.

Minimizing your fault percentage begins long before the trial. Work with a personal injury attorney at LA Century Law to build your claims and defenses.

Key California Laws and Precedents on Comparative Negligence

Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3d 804 (1975) – An accident occurred at an intersection in Los Angeles. The plaintiff reached the intersection and made a left turn across three southbound lanes to enter a driveway. At the same time, the defendant came over the hill and struck the plaintiff. The defendant was speeding and drove through a yellow light. However, the plaintiff was negligent too, turning across southbound lanes when there was oncoming traffic. The court found that both parties were negligent and that comparative negligence applies.

Rycz v. Super Court of San Francisco County, 81 Cal.App.5th 824 (2002) – The victim left a party intoxicated. After hailing an Uber, the victim wandered onto the freeway. Two different cars hit her, and she was killed. The defense raised the issue of comparative negligence. The court said that comparative negligence may be used to determine the wrongful death claim.

Curtis v. Kastner, 220 Cal. 185, 192 (1934) – This case happened before California adopted pure comparative negligence. The plaintiff was chasing her puppy and ran into some rafters that protruded from the defendant’s garage into an alley. The court applied the old California law of contributory negligence. They left it for the trier of fact to determine if the plaintiff was negligent.

Under today’s law, the plaintiff may have recovered despite having some fault.

Contact an Experienced San Bernardino Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Comparative negligence can greatly impact a personal injury claim in California. LA Century Law is a premier personal injury law firm. Having collected millions in compensation for our clients, we work on the issues that matter to you the most. Call or message us now for legal help.

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