Comparative Fault and Vista Car Accident Lawsuits

anja-137284-300x225If you are in a car accident in Vista and file a lawsuit against the negligent driver, how will your case be impacted if the defendant says you are partially to blame for the accident? This question concerns “comparative fault,” which is sometimes known as contributory negligence or contributory fault. In short, when a plaintiff files an accident claim against the responsible party, that defendant can raise the issue of comparative fault as a defense to avoid paying the plaintiff the full amount of compensation he or she is seeking. While each state has its own laws concerning comparative fault, it is important to know that a plaintiff in California can still recover damages even if the court says the plaintiff is partially to blame.

We want to tell you more about California’s comparative fault law, and to explain how it may affect a car accident lawsuit in Vista.

California Follows a Pure Comparative Fault Rule

As we mentioned above, different states handle issues of comparative fault in various ways. Some states follow what is known as a pure contributory negligence rule, barring a plaintiff from any type of recovery if that plaintiff is even one percent at fault for an accident. Other states follow some form of a modified comparative fault rule in which a plaintiff is barred from recovery once that plaintiff is either 50% or more at fault, or 51% or more at fault—the distinction varies based on the particular state.

California follows what is known as a pure comparative fault rule. This means that a car accident plaintiff in Vista can recover damages from the defendant whether that plaintiff is 1% at fault, or even 99% at fault. In other words, as long as the defendant is still at fault in some capacity, then the plaintiff is still entitled to recover damages. However, it is important to know that the plaintiff’s damages award ultimately is reduced by his or her portion of the fault and the defendant is responsible for paying only his or her portion of fault. In other words, fault is apportioned accordingly.

Comparative fault is not an issue that the plaintiff would raise, or that the court would raise on its own. Rather, comparative fault is a defense that the defendant might raise in order to reduce his percentage of liability. If you are concerned that you may be partially at fault for your car accident, you should talk with a Vista car accident attorney about gathering evidence to prove that the defendant (or defendants) is entirely at fault and that you bear no responsibility or fault for the collision.

How Does Comparative Fault Work in Practice?

If the defendant is successful in proving that the plaintiff is partially at fault for a Vista car crash, then the plaintiff’s damages award is reduced by the plaintiff’s portion of fault.

For example, if the jury decides that the plaintiff is 5% responsible, that plaintiff’s damages award would be reduced by 5%. Let us say that the jury awards the plaintiff a total of $100,000. The court would then reduce that amount by the plaintiff’s portion of fault, or 5% (so, $100,000 – 5%, or $5,000), and the plaintiff would recover $95,000. The same type of equation would be used whether the plaintiff is nominally at fault or largely at fault. For instance, if the plaintiff is 90% at fault, that $100,000 damages award would be reduced by 90%, or $90,000, and the plaintiff would recover $10,000 under California’s comparative fault law.

Contact a Vista Auto Accident Lawyer

If you have questions about comparative fault and your traffic crash claim, an experienced car accident attorney in Vista can assist you. Contact the Walton Law Firm for more information.


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