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Automobile Accidents Compensation While Partially at Fault

Comparative Negligence In California, if you sustain an injury in an automobile accident for which you might be partly at fault, it is important to know that the state law does preserve your right to receive compensation. California has a doctrine called "comparative negligence". This doctrine states that responsibility will be assigned in the event that the party that was injured was also responsible for the accident.

A judge and/or jury determine what percentage of fault rests with which party when accidents result from multiple negligent parties, inclusive of the party that is looking to be compensated for injuries and damages. For example, if you were driving faster than the legal speed limit, and an oncoming vehicle turn left in front of you, your speed can be a factor in you being at least partially to blame. This assumes that the speed at which you were driving was a "substantial factor" in causing the accident. The law allows for a reduction of your recovery that is consistent with the percentage fault attributed to you. If speeding contributed to the accident (for example, 10% of the accident was caused by speeding), your recovery would be reduced by that same amount.

One still gets an equitable amount after this reduction, for example $90,000.00 instead of $100,000.00. The assumption made by some drivers that if they are to any degree at fault for their injury, they are not entitled be compensated at all, is incorrect. Until an over 30 year old California Supreme Court decision (Li v. Yellow Cab Company (1975) 13 Cal.

3d 804, 810), stated that precluding any recovery by someone who contributed at all to the occurrence of their own accident and injuries was an archaic doctrine followed by the State. Joint and several responsibility replaced the old "all-or-nothing" rule. Joint and Several Responsibility The "joint and several" responsibility is a concept that may be as important as the comparative negligence doctrine. The laws in California before 1986 gave a victim of negligence the right to be compensated from any one of the parties that caused their harm for all damages. This rule was changed because at times it resulted in unfairness, as it could cause hardship to the party who was less responsible but might have had the "deepest pockets.

" The new rule (still in effect today) still retains the prior joint and several liability doctrine as regards the injured party's economic (i.e. special) damages. However, it adopted a rule of several liability for the noneconomic (i.e. general) damages.

This means that each defendant would be liable for only the portion of the plaintiff's noneconomic (i.e. general) damages that stems from the degree the defendant is at fault for the plaintiff's injury.

The case of (Evangelatos v. Superior Court (1988) 44 Cal. 3d 1188) monetary damages were deemed to include "medical expenses, earnings lost, cost of burial, property rendered unusable, repair or replacement costs, home care costs, loss of current job as well as business and job opporunities". Noneconomic damages are losses not of a financial nature that may include, but are not limited to pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental distress, emotional harm, humiliation, injury to reputation and loss of consortium, society or companionship. (California Civil Code Section 1431.

2) Proposition 51, known as the Fair Responsibility Act of 1986, enacted this law. This rule is complicated, but consider this example: A driver stops on a flat straight road interrupting the flow of traffic; a Vehicle Code violation. The speeding driver behind him swerves across the double yellow line to avoid him, striking your vehicle head-on in the opposing lane. The driver who stopped in the road is found to be 70 % at fault, whilst 30% of the fault is attributed to the driver who swerved. Your pain and suffering, noneconomic damages, total $200,000, while the special damages, like medical bills and lost pay, are determined to be $100,000. Sad to say, the driver most responsible for the accident claimed no insurance or assets.

The party at fault, who has insurance, will pay $160,000.00 (economic damages and 30% of general damages) due to joint and several responsibility for the special damages. If there did not exist joint and several responsibility for damages, the injured party would only be able to recover about 30% of the $300,000 in total damages, or about $90,000. The law was passed to protect individuals of means from paying all the damages, but it also helps victims by allowing greater judgments for special damages against the responsible parties. Every car accident is different and the factors leading to it are endlessly varied.

A trial attorney, with experience, will be able to help you make your way through the facts of the law, as well as reaching a fair conclusion.

For more than 15 years, Paul W. Ralph has been an Orange County personal injury attorney successfully handling court cases and lawsuits in California. Because of the importance of the cases handled in the past as a vehicle accident attorney Orange County and other important personal injury cases.

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