California is a pure comparative negligence state. This law is also referred to as “pure comparative fault.”
What Is Pure Comparative Negligence?
There are three types of fault laws in the U.S.: pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence.
In a pure comparative negligence state, such as California, you can seek monetary damages after an accident unless you are entirely at fault for the accident. However, if you contributed to the accident or your injuries, your damages will be reduced accordingly. For example, if a jury found you 75% responsible for the accident, you can only collect 25% in damages.
In a contributory negligence state, the plaintiff’s contribution (no matter how small) to the accident makes them ineligible to recover compensation. In a modified comparative negligence state, plaintiffs who contributed to the accident can recover compensation so long as they did not surpass a certain percentage threshold (around 50%) which differs by state.
Has California Always Been a Comparative Negligence State?
California was initially a contributory negligence state until the Li v. Yellow Cab Co. court case in 1975. This case was brought about after a car collision in which the plaintiff, Nga Li, was struck by a cab driver who ran a yellow light at high speed. Li was crossing three lanes of oncoming traffic to enter a gas station when she was struck.
It was determined that Li shared some responsibility for the crash. Due to California following contributory negligence laws, she was barred from receiving any financial compensation. Li appealed the case to California’s Supreme Court, which would eventually abolish the contributory fault law in California in favor of comparative negligence.
Joint and Several Liability Laws in California
The joint and several liability laws in certain states dictate that multiple parties can be liable for your damages. But most importantly, each party can be responsible for fully reimbursing the plaintiff for their damages.
This law’s primary purpose is to ensure victims receive proper compensation, even if one of the negligent parties does not have the means to pay their assigned portion of the damages. This means a defendant could be responsible for most or all the injured party’s expenses, even if they were only 25% responsible.
Does Joint and Several Liability Still Apply if I Contributed to the Accident?
Yes, joint and several liability apply even if you were partially at fault.
For example, you were rear-ended by a speeding driver. An investigation into the accident determined that the car’s brakes malfunctioned when the driver attempted to stop. In this case, both the driver and the brake manufacturer would be liable for your damages. The investigation also found that your brake lights were out so it awarded you 25% of the fault. While joint and several liability still applies, comparative negligence can greatly complicate matters.
It will be in the claimant’s best interest to seek legal aid to assist in calculating their damages and determining fault in any claim against negligence. Greenberg Gross will be instrumental in discovering your case’s true value in addition to any necessary investigation to see potentially responsible parties held monetarily accountable for their actions.
Why Does Comparative Negligence Matter to Me?
While California’s pure comparative negligence law is much fairer to injured parties than the former contributory negligence law, it still has a substantial effect on what compensation you can recover. If the jury finds you were 40% at fault for the accident or your injuries, you leave 40% of your on the table.
In cases involving serious or catastrophic injuries, that could be hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars you’ll lose. An attorney from our firm can help you build a robust case establishing the other party’s fault.
Call Greenberg Gross Today for Help With a California Personal Injury Case
California’s comparative negligence laws give you the opportunity to recover compensation, even if you contributed to your accident. However, determining fault is not always straightforward. This confusion can give the other party to pin the accident on you entirely and take no responsibility. If this happens to you, we can help.
Greenberg Gross’ personal injury attorneys understand how the state’s comparative negligence laws work and can protect your rights and interests as we build your case. To get started, call us for a consultation today.