How Fault Is Determined in a California Car Accident

In the United States, annually, more than 3 million people are injured and roughly 36,000 are killed in motor vehicle crashes. Sadly, some of those injuries and fatalities happen right here in California's Inland Empire.  When these collisions and injuries or death occur, they can wreak havoc on the lives of the victims or their families. For example, crash victims can find themselves seriously injured, forced Fingers Pointing and Blaming Each Other for a Car Accidentto miss work while they recover.  During this time, they are facing mounting medical bills and debt, and getting behind on their everyday bills due to the inability to work.  Families who've lost a loved one in a fatal accident, will incur unexpected expenses, such as funeral expenses and hospital bills, and they will lose the financial support, or the love and comfort of their family member causing even greater financial stress and emotional loss. 

When an accident, injury, or death is caused by another person or company's negligence, the victim or the victim's family may be entitled to compensation.  Does any of this sound familiar?  There are a lot of attorneys who advertise, telling you that you can be compensated for the injuries or losses.  They are right, you need a skilled California personal injury attorney to help you understand your rights, explore your options for compensation, and investigate your accident to get to the bottom of who's at fault and what best financial outcome is available to you.  Here's what you need to know about how fault is determined in a car crash case, the role fault plays in an insurance claim or lawsuit, and how a knowledgeable accident and injury attorney can help.

Understanding Negligence and Fault

Some states have "no fault" laws which merely means you make a claim against your own insurance if you are involved in a collision, regardless of fault.  California is an "at fault" state.  If you are going to secure a financial recovery for your injuries or losses, you must prove to the insurance company, a jury or judge, that the other person was negligent, which is another word for at fault.  In order to collect compensation in a car crash or wrongful death claim, you (and your attorney) will have to show that another involved party did something wrong that caused the collision. Specifically, you must present evidence to prove that:

  • The other party had a duty to operate their vehicle safely, in a way that minimized the risk of harm to others
  • The party breached that duty by engaging in behavior, such as speeding, making an unsafe turn or movement, or driving while distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • You suffered damages such as physical injuries, property damages, lost wages, loss of earning potential, pain and suffering, and other losses in the collision in question
  • That your injuries and losses were caused, in whole or in part, due to the negligence of the other party and arose from the collision.

Additionally, a driver may be presumed negligent (under a legal theory known as "negligence per se") if they violated a statute, ordinance, or regulation that resulted in the very injuries, property damages, or deaths the law was intended to prevent.

Insurance companies often fight injured victims by claiming that their insured, the other driver, was not at fault, that the victim was the cause of the collision or that the injuries claimed were not from the collision, but existed before the collision.

How Comparative Negligence Can Affect Your Claim

The term "comparative negligence" is used to assess some liability for the collision with injury victim.  So, what if you were partially responsible for the accident in which you were injured?  Does that mean you have no right to recovery?  In some states, the answer to that question is yes.  Thankfully, in California, that if you are partially at fault, it does not prevent you from collecting compensation for injuries related to the portion of fault caused by the other driver. California follows pure comparative negligence rules, which means you can be partly at fault for a crash, and potentially still recover damages.  Instead of receiving 100% of your recovery for the injuries, your recovery  may be reduced to reflect your degree of fault.  For example, if your case had a value of $100,000, but you were found 30% at fault, then your recovery would be reduced by that 30%, or by $30,000.

Important Evidence in Car Crash Cases

Evidence is key to determining fault in personal injury and wrongful death cases. A seasoned attorney can help you gather the evidence needed to strengthen your claim. Examples of evidence that can serve to support a claim in these types of cases include:

  • Detailed medical records and statements from the doctors treating the injuries, also medical records prior to the injuries
  • Bills, receipts, and other documents showing medical expenses, lost wages, property damages, and other costs
  • Photos and videos of the collision scene, your injuries, and other damages
  • Statements and testimony from people who witnessed the cras
  • Evaluation and testimony from experts in the fields of medicine, accident reconstruction, biomechanics, economics and occupational retraining, and others

A Skilled Attorney Can Help You Seek Fair Compensation

If you were seriously hurt, or someone you love was killed in a crash they didn't cause, an adept attorney can help you fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. Here are just a few of the things an attorney can do for you:

  • Investigate your case to determine and prove fault
  • Level the playing field between you and the other party's insurance company or legal counsel
  • Handle communications from the other party's insurance company or attorney
  • Gather the evidence needed to build a strong case, including work with your doctor to ensure your medical record thoroughly and carefully document your injuries 
  • Arrange for eyewitnesses and experts to testify on your behalf
  • Negotiate a fair settlement
  • Prepare your case for trial
  • Try your case (if necessary)
  • And much, much more

Consult Our Injury Recovery Professionals About Your Car Accident Case

Need help fighting for a fair recovery? You came to the right law firm. Contact the Inland Empire Law Group today at (888) 694-3529 or (909) 481-0100, or use your website to submit your request for a consultation, to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation and to find out how we can assist you.

 

David Ricks
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Rancho Cucamonga Car Accident Attorney and Victorville CA Personal Injury Lawyer Serving Inland Empire