Can Fault Be Shared?
When one person is at fault for an accident, determining liability and filing an insurance claim can be relatively straightforward. When both drivers are at fault, however, determining who is responsible for the costs becomes a little more complicated. The laws on fault are state-specific. In some states, being even partially at fault for an accident means you have no right to compensation. In other states, California included, both drivers can be at fault and theoretically seek compensation from the other party. But just how much compensation they have a right to seek depends on to what percentage they were at fault. Before we go into more detail, let's first take a look at the fault law in California and what it means.
California is a comparative negligence—also called comparative fault—state. This means you can be partially at fault for an accident and still retain the right to seek compensation. This principle applies to general personal injury cases, not just car accidents.
Your Compensation Is Reduced By Your Fault
While comparative fault certainly makes it easier to obtain compensation for your damages if you are found partially at fault, there is an important caveat. The amount of compensation you seek will be reduced by the percentage you are found at fault. In other words, if you were partially at fault, the other driver does not have to compensate you fully for all your damages. Under the comparative negligence principle, drivers aren't responsible for any more than their degree of fault. For example, if a driver were found 10% at fault, he or she would be liable for 10% of the damages.
It might seem unfair that someone 90% at fault for an accident you're involved in can still file a claim against you. That's right; you can be sued even if you were just 10% at fault for an accident. But, it's important to keep in mind that the person 90% at fault may only recover 10% of the damages. So, if the driver's total damages amounted to $10,000 and that driver was found 90% at fault, he or she may only recover a maximum of $1,000 from you.
This is why carrying good liability insurance is so important. No matter how careful of a driver you are, it's impossible to rule out the potential that you will be found partially at fault for an accident. And when it comes to personal injury law, many variables can affect this determination. The police report is an important indicator of fault, but the police arrive after the accident and can only piece together a report based on what they see and hear. Whether or not you were issued a citation also plays a significant role. If you were given a ticket after the accident, the insurance company can use that as a reason to deny your claim.
Other variables that can affect the determination of fault are the statements each driver and any witnesses provide, images or recordings from traffic or dash cameras, and even the placement of the damage on either car. Determining fault is somewhat like an investigation in that the insurance company may look to many sources of information if it is disputing liability, which brings up an important point.
Whenever facing a finding of fault or trying to claim the other driver was at fault, you might need the assistance of a personal injury attorney. An attorney with experience can set to work investigating your case and may find evidence that clearly establishes fault. Likewise, an attorney can question police reports, speak to witnesses, and negotiate with the insurance company to establish your right to compensation. Thus, consulting with a California personal injury attorney should be your first step after an accident. The sooner you involve an attorney, the more information he or she might be able to gather in your defense.
Do you need help getting the compensation you deserve? Fresno area personal injury attorney Christopher Martens can help you protect your interests and rights while settling your claim. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide knowledgeable personal injury claim guidance. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.