How Can Partial Fault Affect My Personal Injury Claim?
If you are injured in an accident but bear some of the responsibility for it, you can still recover for the portion of your loss caused by another liable party. The catch is that the damages you incurred will be reduced in proportion to your fault.
Imagine, for example, that a jury finds that the total monetary value of your losses, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other compensation due in your case, is $200,000. If that jury also finds that your carelessness contributed 10% to the injury, your verdict would be reduced by $20,000. Your compensation would be reduced from $200,000 to $180,000.
Insurance companies and defense lawyers may try to coax you to accept an unfairly low settlement based on your partial fault. Do not fall for this tactic. Instead, discuss your case with an attorney who can provide a skillful analysis of your situation. Los Angeles personal injury lawyers understand how to handle this and other tactics that insurance adjusters use to save money.
Comparative fault in California
California is one of only about a dozen states in the U.S. that follow a pure comparative fault rule. This means that someone who suffers a personal injury – even if they bear up to 99% of the fault for it – is permitted to seek restitution from another at-fault party.
Not every case is worth pursuing even if it is technically permitted. If your injury is worth $10,000 and you bore 90% of the responsibility for the accident, you may spend more than then $1,000 you could recover in pursuing the claim. However, if your injury was worth $100,000 and you bear 10% of the responsibility, then it may very well be worth fighting for compensation.
How comparative fault is determined in Southern California cases
The fault may be determined formally or informally. It is determined informally when your personal injury lawyer and an insurance adjuster or defense counsel are negotiating an insurance claim or lawsuit settlement.
It is never a good idea to try to negotiate comparative fault on your own. Insurance adjusters like to inflate their calculation of your fault to reduce the value of the claim and save the company some money. Instead, let your attorney handle these conversations.
If you need to file a lawsuit and proceed to trial, it is usually a jury that will determine degrees of fault. This is the more formal determination of fault. At the end of the case, the jury will determine the overall value of your injury and then calculate the percentage of fault that each party bears. The value of the injury is then reduced to reflect your portion of the fault.
Examples of comparative fault
If the other party alleges that the victim had been at fault, it could be that his actions contributed to the accident or that he did something to make the injuries worse. For example:
- An oncoming driver makes an illegal left turn into the victim’s path and strikes his vehicle. However, he was speeding at the time. The other driver may be judged 80% at fault while the victim is 20% at fault.
- A shopping mall fails to clean up or place a warning sign by a puddle near the entrance and the victim slips. There is evidence that the victim had been looking at his phone instead of watching where he was walking so a jury finds him to bear 30% of the fault.
- A car is struck by a truck that failed to yield the right of way. The accident was caused completely by the truck driver’s carelessness but the driver of the car is more seriously injured because he was not wearing a seat belt. A jury determines that 30% of the injury is attributable to the driver’s not wearing a restraint.
Experienced personal injury attorneys begin building the evidence related to each party’s fault before filing a claim or lawsuit. This better positions the case when the claimant’s fault is alleged.
Discuss comparative fault with a Los Angeles lawyer
Each state adopts its own laws regarding the fault of a personal injury plaintiff. If you were injured in an accident in Southern California and may be partly to blame, discuss your case with an LA lawyer who can explain your rights and responsibilities in California.
At Ellis Injury Law, we are here to help you win the compensation you deserve. We never charge a fee up-front and consultations are free and confidential.