It’s hard to live in Southern California for very long without being involved in a collision. If you’re fortunate, a crash is fairly minor. If it’s serious, you could be looking at many thousands of dollars in medical bills, vehicle repair costs and lost wages.
The determination of fault makes a big difference in how much compensation you can receive. Most accidents aren’t 100% the fault of one driver. Even if the other driver was predominantly to blame, if you were doing anything wrong when it occurred, that can potentially minimize your compensation.
Understanding the pure comparative negligence rule
States follow various types of rules when it comes to how fault and negligence affect compensation. California follows what’s called the “pure comparative” negligence rule. That means if you take legal action against another party, you can collect damages for their percentage of fault.
For example, say you had the right of way at an intersection in a residential area because there was no stop sign facing your direction, but drivers coming from your left and right had stop signs. A driver ran through a stop sign and hit you in the intersection.
However, you were traveling above the speed limit in a school zone while children were present. You also didn’t look both ways just to be sure no one was coming. Therefore, the other driver is determined to be 75% at fault. That means you can collect 75% of the damages you’d be able to collect if they were 100% at fault.
Fortunately, California – unlike some other states – doesn’t have a cap (maximum) on damages you can collect on personal injury claims for economic or non-economic damages. The primary exception is if someone is driving without auto insurance. Those motorists can’t collect non-economic damages, which are commonly known as damages for “pain and suffering” and similar intangible losses.
Determining percentage of fault isn’t an exact science. The more evidence you have to support your side of the story if the other driver is primarily or completely at fault, the better off you’ll be. This can include the police report, photos of the scene and witness statements. These days, there’s often video from street cameras, business security cameras and even residential doorbell cameras.
Having experienced legal guidance can also help you to make a strong case and to pursue the maximum possible compensation to cover your expenses and other damages.