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Car Accident

Can I Be Compensated for an Accident That Was Partially My Fault?

The answer to this question varies from state to state.  In California, the answer is “yes,” in most cases. 

Comparative Negligence 

Comparative negligence is a legal rule that allocates damages to both parties in a lawsuit. It is usually based on the percentage of fault each party has in causing the precipitating accident, or the level of injury that a jury finds for each party.  

For example, imagine you were in a car accident in Riverside, CA where you and another driver collided after they executed an illegal left turn resulting in injuries to you both. However, at the time of the collision, you were speeding. Based on the facts of this case, a jury may determine that you were partially at fault for the collision, and therefore partially responsible for the other driver’s and your own injuries. The jury would then determine how much fault each party had—usually expressed as a percent. In this example, the jury might determine that you (the plaintiff) were 20% at fault, and the defendant was at 80%. Both you and the defendant would then pay your share of the other party’s damages. As determined by the jury, you would pay 20% of the defendant’s damages, and they would pay 80% of your damages. 

The vast majority of American states, including California, are pure comparative negligence jurisdictions and apply this rule. 

An experienced car accident attorney will be well equipped to ensure that you are awarded the maximum amount of accident compensation, should your lawsuit go to trial. 

Contributory Negligence 

Contributory negligence is a legal rule that stops a plaintiff from recovering any accident compensation if they are shown to be at all negligent in contributing to their accident, even if the defendant was substantially more negligent in causing the accident. So, in the example outlined above, you would not be entitled to collect any accident compensation from the defendant and your case would likely be thrown out by the court. 

Legal scholars and car accident attorneys have roundly criticized contributory negligence for the rule’s harsh effects on injured plaintiffs. The rule effectively cuts off any avenues of recovery of accident compensation for many accident victims facing substantial medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, psychological injuries, and other costs associated with their accident. 

Contributory negligence has largely been eliminated in most jurisdictions in the United States. The rule currently only applies to Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, as well as in Indiana in torts cases against government entities. 

Contact a Riverside, CA Car Accident Attorney 

In 2015, Riverside County was ranked as having the sixth highest rate of car accidents among large California cities. If you have been injured in a car accident in the greater Riverside, CA area, contact the attorneys at Wagner & Pelayes, LLP. Since 2004, our firm has assisted innumerable injured clients in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to maximize their recovery of accident compensation, and have been named one of the best firms in the Inland Empire. Call our offices today for a free consultation with a car accident attorney specialist at, (951) 686-4800.

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