Pure Comparative Negligence in Northern and Southern California
In Northern and Southern California, as elsewhere throughout the country, personal injury cases are a common type of litigation. If you have suffered a personal injury in California, it is helpful for you to have some basic understanding of the various laws that govern personal injury claims in California. Most of all, it is essential that you work with a skilled personal injury attorney who can answer all your questions and concerns and will fight fiercely to protect your rights. At California Trial Law Group, PC, we are well-prepared to assist you.
In all 50 states, the law recognizes it may not be easy to discern which party is at fault in a particular accident, but different states have different ways of handling the situation. In many states, including California, comparative negligence is the rule. Comparative negligence means that the injured party can recover damages even if he or she was partially at fault for the accident, but that the damages received will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to the injured party. “Pure” comparative negligence, the specific method used by California and a number of other states, establishes that as long as the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit bears any portion of the blame (even 1 percent), the case can be adjudicated and the insured party can be awarded damages.
Examples of Comparative Negligence in Various Types of Personal Injury
Comparative negligence is important when the court is attempting to level the playing field in an accident inquiry. The fact that a truck involved in a traffic accident is much larger and heavier than the motorcycle with which it collided, for example, does not mean that the truck driver bears all the responsibility for the cyclist’s head injury. Though the truck may have been traveling at 10 miles over the speed limit, the motorcycle may still have made an illegal left turn, and the cyclist may not have been wearing the motorcycle helmet required by law.
In cases like this, the judge or jury will assign a percentage of blame to each party. The injured party’s award will be decreased by the percentage of his or her liability. If the court awards damages in the amount of $1,000,000, for instance, but finds the cyclist to be 40 percent at fault for the crash, the cyclist will end up collecting $600,000, an amount from which his 40 percent portion of blame had been subtracted.
Other examples of comparative fault may occur when:
- A person injured in a slip and fall accident on an unmarked slippery floor (premises liability) was inebriated at the time of the accident
- A dog bit a child after the child repeatedly prodded him with a stick
- A patient had a serious stroke after a treatment the doctor would not have administered had the patient informed the doctor that she was taking a blood-thinning medication
- An individual was injured by an electric knife he used although it arrived in a damaged package with obvious product defects
What Makes Comparative Fault “Pure” in Northern and Southern California
While in some states, a person who bears any fault for his or her own injury cannot sue for any compensation at all, in other states, the injured party can only receive damages if he or she is less than 50 percent (or less than 51 percent) to blame for his or her own injuries. This latter method is known as moderate comparative negligence. What makes California comparative fault “pure” is that the injured person is permitted to sue and win damages even if he or she is 99 percent responsible for the injuries received. This pure comparative standard in regard to personal injury lawsuits is in effect not only in California, but in a number of other states as well.
Personal injury laws are some of the most widely varied and idiosyncratic laws among the states. Only in Michigan, for example, is the plaintiff allowed to collect economic damages if he or she is 51 percent at fault for the injury suffered, but not non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering). Another oddly ambiguous personal injury law exists only in South Dakota. In that state there is a “slight/gross” negligence rule in which, if the plaintiff’s fault is considered more than “slightly” (a vague term at best) at fault, he or she is barred from receiving any compensation at all.
As you can see, comparative negligence is a complicated, often confusing, method of calculating personal injury damages, particularly because it varies so much from state to state. This makes it essential for you to deal with a savvy, experienced personal injury attorney familiar with California laws when you’re trying to collect compensation for your medical costs, lost wages, future disability, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in Northern or Southern California, you should get in touch with the efficient, compassionate California Trial Law Group. Our proven track record gives you the very best chance of a possible outcome. We can be reached by telephone or by filling out a contact form on our website. Remember that we will not take your case unless we are confident that we can win damages for you and that you will not be charged any attorney fees until we do.