What is Comparative Negligence in California?

Auto Accident
Comparative Negligence

When a person is injured in California in an accident that is caused by the negligence of another, a personal injury lawsuit may follow. 

In some cases, an accident will result from the negligence of more than one person. When that happens, each negligent person will be responsible for the percentage of fault for which he or she is responsible.

What is negligence?

In order to understand comparative negligence, it is important to first understand what negligence itself is. Negligence is a legal term that speaks to acts that could lead to liability. In order to prove that a person was negligent, an injured person must prove that the person had a duty of care they owed to the injured person. The plaintiff must then show that the person breached, or broke, the duty he or she owed to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff's injury resulted from that breach. 

How comparative negligence works in California

In cases in which more than one party was responsible for causing the accident and the resulting injuries, comparative negligence rules apply. This might happen in an accident in which both drivers shared a part of the fault in causing the accident. If one is injured and then sues the other, his or her recovery amount will be reduced by the percentage of fault he or she holds. How this works is that a jury will determine the percentage of fault each party holds. They will return a verdict of a certain amount of monetary damages in a suit that is successful. Then, the judge will take the percentage of fault the jury assigned to the plaintiff and reduce the total award by that percentage.

For example, if a jury returns a verdict in favor of a plaintiff with an award of $100,000, the plaintiff's total recovery amount will be reduced by any fault percentage they have been assigned. For instance, if the jury says that the plaintiff was 30 percent at fault while the defendant was 70 percent at fault for causing the accident, the plaintiff will recover $70,000 of the total $100,000 verdict. 

Reason for comparative negligence

Like many other states, California uses the comparative negligence standard in order to address situations in which both parties are partially at fault. The idea is that people who hold part of the fault for an accident should also hold part of the responsibility for paying for it. 

When a person shares part of the blame for the accident that injured him or her, he or she should expect to recover less than if he or she was injured through no fault of his or her own. A personal injury lawyer may be able to review the facts of the accident and then advise the injured person about the likelihood of recovery.

For more information on accidents in the Golden State, visit my comprehensive page dedicated to auto accidents in Los Angeles. The same information that is there can be applied to accidents anywhere in California. 

Allen Vaysberg
Personal Injury Attorney
Law Offices of Steers & Associates

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