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California Car Accident Claims: Understanding Comparative Negligence Through Examples

Hurt in a car crash in Stockton? It is imperative that your accident is thoroughly investigated. Fault matters in car accident injury claims in California. The party (or parties) who caused the collision through negligence will bear legal culpability. Our state operates under a pure comparative negligence system to determine fault. In this blog post, our Stockton auto accident lawyers provide an in-depth overview of the California comparative negligence standard through three examples.  

Background: California is a Pure Comparative Negligence State

As you are navigating a motor vehicle accident injury claim in California, it is useful to understand how the legal process actually works in these cases. In California, liability for a car crash—including a collision in Stockton—is based on fault. As stated within the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition), fault is based on negligence. Of course, not every crash in Stockton is solely the fault of one party. Some cases may result in shared legal culpability. California adheres to the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. This legal principle allows a plaintiff to recover damages even if they were partially at fault for the collision. Under this system, a court will assign a percentage of fault to each party involved. Recovery is proportional to degree of fault. 

Understanding Pure Comparative Negligence Through Three Examples

  1. The Other Driver Bears Full Responsibility for the Crash in Stockton

Imagine you are driving down Pacific Avenue in Stockton, observing all traffic rules. Suddenly, another driver runs a red light and collides with your vehicle. The police arrive at the scene, witnesses confirm your account, and it is determined that the other driver is 100 percent at fault. Under the principle of pure comparative negligence, the other driver (or their insurance) would be responsible for covering 100 percent of your damages.

In this scenario, your adherence to traffic rules and the evidence available made it clear-cut that the other party was entirely to blame. As a result, you would be eligible to recover full damages, including medical expenses, repair costs, lost wages, and any other related losses. When the other party bears full legal liability for your accident, you have the right to hold them legally responsible for the full extent of your damages. 

  1. You Share Partial Fault for a Collision in Stockton

For the second example, let us tweak the situation a little bit. Imagine you are driving down the same road in Stockton, but this time, you are over the speed limit. As you approach an intersection, another driver fails to yield the right of way and hits your vehicle. After investigation by law enforcement, it is eventually determined that you were 20 percent at fault due to your speeding, while the other driver was 80% at fault for not yielding.

Under pure comparative negligence in California, your compensation will reflect these fault percentages that were assigned for this accident. If, for example, your total damages amounted to $10,000, you would be entitled to recover 80 percent of that sum, or $8,000, from the other driver. The reduction by 20 percent accounts for your contribution to the accident. As this example makes clear, every single percentage point of fault matters. 

  1. Three Different Parties All Share Blame for a Stockton Accident

The more vehicles that were involved in a crash in Stockton, the more complicated it becomes to assign blame for the accident. Consider the following scenario of a three-car pile-up that occurs in the downtown part of the city. Car A fails to stop at a stop sign, Car B is texting and driving, and Car C, which you are driving, is tailgating Car B. A collision ensues. 

After thorough investigation, it is determined that Car A is 50 percent at fault for running the stop sign, Car B is 30 percent at fault for distracted driving, and you, in Car C, are 20 percent at fault for tailgating. Each party bears some share of the legal fault for this Stockton car crash. However, as California is a pure comparative negligence state, each party still has the right to pursue a claim. 

If your damages from the crash total $15,000, you would subtract your percentage of fault from the potential recovery. In other words, you could recover $12,000 (80 percent of $15,000). Of this, $7,500 (or 50 percent of your damages) could be sought from the driver of Car A, and $4,500 (or 30 percent of your damages) from the driver of Car B.

We Help Injured Car Accident Victims in Stockton Maximize their Recovery

Establishing fault is absolutely essential in any car accident injury claim in California. Fault matters. It will affect your ability to recover financial compensation for your damages. At the same time, fault is not the only issue that will impact your claim. You also need to prove the extent of your damages. In California, car accident injury compensation is, by definition, designed to be “compensatory.” In other words, it will generally be tied to your actual damages. Unfortunately, the big insurers fight hard to try to settle their cases for less. At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockon car crash attorneys fight hard to help our clients secure the greatest possible recovery.  Through your car accident claim in California, financial compensation may be available for: 

  • Vehicle repairs or replacement; 
  • Emergency room care; 
  • Medical bills; 
  • Other health care costs; 
  • Lost wages; 
  • Diminished earnings; 
  • Pain and suffering; 
  • Long-term disability; 
  • Physical disfigurement; and
  • Wrongful death. 

Set Up Your Free Case Evaluation With a Stockton Car Accident Lawyer Today

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockon car crash attorneys are committed to delivering big time results for our clients. If you have any specific questions or concerns about car accident claims and comparative negligence in California, we can help. Give us a phone call now or contact us online to set up your no cost, no commitment case evaluation. With a law office in Stockton, we take on the full spectrum of motor vehicle accident claims in the San Joaquin Valley.