comparative fault lawyer

What is Pure Comparative Fault in a California Car Accident?

Did You Partially Cause Your California Car Accident?  You Can Still Recover Compensation 

Oftentimes there are many different causes of a car accident.  Cases include more than just a defendant who is speeding or runs a stop sign, but also causes from other drivers, the way the roads are set up with signage, or how the roads are maintained.  Unfortunately, another common cause is the shared fault of the victim.  Indeed, some car accidents can be partially caused by a victim.  Some victims may feel guilty about causing a car accident and decide they should not seek compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and their pain and suffering.  Other times an insurance adjuster may even blame the victim for completely causing the car accident and tell the victim they have no rights under the law.  But our California car accident lawyers know this is not true because California is a pure comparative fault state.

At the Broadway Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA, our experienced car accident lawyers will not let an overreaching or aggressive insurance adjuster try to blame you for their client’s negligence.  Blaming the victim is a very common defense used by insurance adjusters who frequently try to split liability or get victims to accept less compensation than they are entitled to under the law.  We will not let that happen.  Learn how we can protect your rights to compensation during a FREE consultation by dialing 213.344.0067 to speak with one of our knowledgeable and well-trained team members at our law firm.  Our lawyers are standing by and ready to help you today.

Can a Victim of a Car Accident Recover Compensation if He or She Was Partially at Fault?

Yes, a victim can recover compensation in any type of personal injury accident—even if the victim was partially at fault.  Many adjusters or defense lawyers will try to make you think that being partially at fault will somehow bar your claim.  Historically that may have been true, but for the last several decades that is not how California law applies fault.

This means that a victim who may be partially at fault could still recover compensation, including in situations where the following occurring:

  • Defendant ran stop sign and hit you, but you may have been speeding
  • Defendant was drunk and crossed the centerline into you, but you were changing the radio station
  • Defendant made a last-second left turn right in front of you, but you did not get to apply the brakes
  • Defendant was texting while driving and could have stopped when you rolled too far past the stop line at an intersection

There are many more examples that could apply, including if you were on your cell phone, fatigued, or possible intoxicated.  The amount of fault you have does not bar a claim in California based on how the state’s Legislature has set up fault.

Categories of Fault Jurisdictions: Contributory and Comparative Fault

Historically, states were mostly contributory fault states.  In contributory fault states, the partial fault from a victim would be an absolute bar in an accident.  This means even 1% of fault could result in an otherwise valid lawsuit being dismissed.  

For example, a drunk driver that falls asleep at the wheel while speeding could escape paying for your damages if you rolled too far in front of a stop line.  This is an outlandish example, but just goes to show how draconian contributory fault laws were.

Most states shifted to comparative fault laws in the 1970s to 1980s.  California switched over after the California Supreme Court case in Li v Yellow Cab. Co., wherein the Supreme Court found that contributory negligence’s “all-or-nothing” rule was manifestly unfair.  The Supreme Court adopted a proportional fault approach.

Thus, in comparative fault states, the proportional amount of a victim’s fault would reduce the award that a victim may recover by that percentage.  It was a direct subtraction in most instances.

For example, if a victim was awarded $200,000 but was found to be 10% at fault for a crash, a victim may still be entitled to recover $200,000 minus $20,000 (10%) which equals $180,000.  In a contributory negligence state the victim may not have been able to recover anything.

Types of Comparative Fault

Besides the larger categorization of contributory fault versus comparative fault, states further breakdown how fault within the category will be applied.  The two main types are modified and pure.

In a “modified comparative fault” jurisdiction a victim will be entitled to recover compensation as long as he or she was less than 51% at fault for the accident.  This means if a victim is found to be the largest cause of an accident, the victim will not be able to recover compensation.

However, in a “pure comparative fault jurisdiction,” a victim will be entitled to recover compensation even if he or she was 99% at fault for causing an accident.

California is a Pure Comparative Fault State

Under California’s current and long-standing statutory scheme, victims of a car accident enjoy “pure comparative fault” laws.  This means that a victim of a car accident who may be 99% at fault for the crash can still recover compensation.  This is the fairest application of the law because it allows the trier of fact (a judge or jury) to allot everyone their fair apportionment of fault and then impose that on the damages award.  

Thus, a defendant who may only be 5% at fault can still be required to pay his or her fair share of the damages.  When the damages tend to be several hundred thousand or even millions of dollars, that 5% can help a victim pay bills and expenses that were caused by the defendant.

Were You Partially At-Fault for a Car Accident in California? 

Let our Experienced Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers Help You. Insurance companies will try to argue that your contributory negligence bars your recovery.  But that is not the law in California and has not been since the 1970s. If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a Los Angeles car accident, call the Broadway Law Firm to protect your rights to recovery under CA law including through comparative fault principles.  We offer FREE consultations and accept cases on a contingency fee basis meaning we only get paid after you get paid.  Schedule your FREE consultation by dialing 213.344.0067 or by using our easy-to-use contact us box available by clicking the link here.

Scroll to Top