Can You Recover Compensation if You Were at Fault in an Accident?

California’s pure comparative fault system

Under California law, a plaintiff who may have had some degree of fault or negligence in an accident may still be able to recover some damages from the defendant. This concept is known as comparative fault and it applies to car accidents, bicycle accidents, motorcycle accidents, or any other type of personal injury case. While some states bar recovery if a person is at fault, California’s system allows a person who was injured in an accident to still recover even if he was 99% at fault. This is known as a pure comparative fault system.

How does pure comparative fault work

Under California’s pure comparative fault principles, damages are apportioned or divided based on each party’s degree of negligence in the accident – no matter how small. As such, if a jury finds that a defendant who ran a red light was only 10% at fault, the defendant will still be held liable for 10% of the damages. So if the damages were $10,000, the defendant would only be responsible for $1,000. They key is determining and assigning a degree of negligence to each party.

How is comparative fault determined

Comparative fault is determined by looking at all the facts of the case and assigning a percentage of fault to each party based on the degree of their negligence. At trial, this is usually done by the jury; in arbitration or mediation, this is done by the arbitrator or mediator. Police reports, witness statements, and other extrinsic evidence is often relied upon to determine each person’s degree of fault.

For example, if someone was texting while driving and caused an accident, they might be found to be 70% at fault. However, if the other driver was speeding, they might be found to be 30% at fault. The total must always add up to 100%. The amount of damages each person can recover would then be reduced based on their percentage of fault.

What degree of fault will bar any recovery

In a pure pure comparative fault system such as California, a person is not barred from recovering damages even if the person is 99% at fault. In a modified comparative fault state, a plaintiff would not be able to recover any damages if he or she was 51% or more at fault. And finally, in a contributory negligence state, if a plaintiff has contributed even 1% to the accident or injury, he or she will not be able to recover any damages. Luckily, California is a pure comparative fault state, which means that a negligent plaintiff is not barred from recovery even though they were assigned 50% or more of the fault in the accident.

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