Person injury law is centered around fault. The person responsible for an injury should compensate the injured. It is the very backbone of civil justice.
Imagine, then, that you are hurt in an accident, but you know you are partly to blame. Let’s say you slip on a puddle in a dilapidated parking lot, and you injure your back. Without question, the business owner is responsible for the safety and upkeep of the lot. However, you were running at a full sprint in the rain when you fell.
In that case, it may be unclear how much compensation you can receive, if any. Luckily, personal injury takes multiple faults into account. It is aware that in any situation, there is rarely only one party to blame. Because of comparative negligence laws, you can still be compensated, even when you are partly at fault.
Civil court is focused on the concept of “negligence.” Negligence scrutinizes what someone didn’t do rather than what they did. For example, in a car accident case, the defendant was speeding at the time of the accident. In a lawsuit, the plaintiff will claim that the defendant was “negligent” in obeying traffic laws.
California’s civil courts operate under a “comparative negligence” model. Courts compare the liability of each party in the case. Using our example above, the court agrees that the business was negligent in keeping its parking lot safe. It also holds you accountable for your lack of reasonable precaution when walking through the lot. From there, it decides how much responsibility each party has.
To do this, courts assign a percentage of liability to each party. In our example, the court decides that you, the runner, are 25% responsible for your injury. You should have been more cautious. However, the lot should have been in better shape, so the business is 75% responsible for your injury.
From there, courts use these percentages to calculate the final reward. The plaintiff can receive money equal to the defendant’s percentage of liability. You are suing the business for $75,000 to cover your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Since you are 25% responsible, you can receive only 75% of the total damages. Therefore, you would walk away from this case with $56,250.
Comparative negligence can also apply to insurance benefits. Typically, an at-fault driver’s insurance company covers the injuries and repairs of the other driver. If you are found partially responsible for an accident, you may receive only a percentage of the normal benefits. To receive more coverage, you may need to appeal to your insurance companies, both car and health. Doing so can be a lengthy, complex process, and you want a lawyer’s help.
What if I Am Mostly to Blame?
Even if you are the at-fault party, you could still be entitled to compensation. California uses a “pure comparative negligence” model. In this system, a plaintiff who is 51% or more liable for their injuries can still receive damages. Imagine our $75,000 example above. A plaintiff who is 99% responsible could still go home with $750. If a plaintiff is 100% responsible, they cannot receive any compensation.
Speak with Your Attorney
If you’re concerned about your level of responsibility in an accident, talk to your lawyer. Tell them the entire story, and don’t hold back any details. They can help you evaluate your case and advise you on how to go forward. Pursuing an injury lawsuit may still be worth the effort. Even with a high level of plaintiff liability, the damages can help cover the cost of recovery.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident, contact our office for a free consultation. You can reach us online or call (607) 228-8404.