Navigating California’s Comparative Negligence Rule

Impacts on Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases are often fraught with complexity, especially when determining who is at fault. In California, the doctrine of comparative negligence plays a pivotal role in deciding compensation awards. If you've ever been injured in an accident, such as a car crash, slip and fall, or another mishap, understanding this rule can significantly affect the outcome of your case.

Comparative negligence is a legal concept that asserts that the injured party's recovery may be diminished in proportion to their degree of fault.

In simpler terms, even if you are partially responsible for your injuries, you may still seek compensation. However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Because California adheres to a pure comparative negligence doctrine, there are no contributory negligence limits regarding collecting compensation. This means that someone can be 99% responsible for an accident and still be able to collect compensation for the remaining 1%.

Establishing Negligence in California

To seek damages in a personal injury case, you must prove that another party was negligent and that their negligence was a significant factor in causing your injuries. This can be easier said than done and involves a careful, thorough investigation of all aspects of the case. Because this process can be so complicated, working with seasoned legal representation, like the attorneys at the Law Offices of Wax & Wax, is strongly encouraged.

Proving negligence involves the following four elements:

  1. Duty of Care: The defendant was responsible for taking reasonable care with their actions.
  2. Breach: The defendant breached that duty through their actions or inactions.
  3. Causation: The defendant's actions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries.
  4. Damages: The plaintiff suffered actual harm or damages as a result.

Identifying All Potentially Liable Parties

California law requires that negligence be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that the defendant's negligence caused the injury. This can be a high bar to meet, especially in cases with multiple potentially liable parties. Therefore, one of the first steps in seeking compensation is to identify all parties who may be responsible.

Potentially liable parties may include:

  • Product manufacturers for defects causing injury.
  • Contractors for negligent work leading to an accident.
  • Municipalities for failing to address hazardous public spaces.
  • Property managers for safety breaches.

When multiple parties are involved, the court will determine each party's fault percentage. This determination is usually based on the evidence presented, such as eyewitness testimony, expert opinions, and physical evidence from the scene of the accident.

The Importance of Legal Counsel

The legal process can be overwhelming, particularly when recovering from injuries. Having an attorney by your side can bring you peace of mind and greater confidence in making important decisions.

An attorney can help with a wide range of tasks associated with your case, including but not limited to:

  • Evaluating your grounds for a claim
  • Assessing your options for seeking compensation
  • Negotiating with insurance companies and healthcare providers
  • Representing you in court, should your case go to trial

If you are considering bringing an injury claim and want to understand how California's comparative negligence doctrine may impact your case, contact the Law Offices of Wax & Wax. Our Glendale-based attorneys are ready to evaluate your case and help you understand your legal options. Your recovery journey starts with informed decisions and the right team by your side.