California's "Pure Comparative Fault"

Consider the following situation: in a multi-car pile-up, one driver, Margaret, is seriously injured. Upon examination, it's found that other drivers were speeding and texting while behind the wheel. When it comes time for Margaret to file a suit, who is responsible? When fault lies with multiple parties, who gets held accountable in an injury suit?

For these circumstances, California relies on something called pure comparative fault. Comparative fault makes it so that the court can decide how fault is distributed and assigned in complex accidents (like multi-car crashes). That fault, represented in a percentage, is then used to determine how much an individual must pay in compensation, or, in some cases, receive in compensation.

To demonstrate, let's look at Margaret's situation again: her accident with the texting driver and the speeding driver resulted in back surgery. There were also other injuries: the texting driver suffered whiplash and the speeding driver suffered a concussion. For simplicity's sake, let's say that the jury awarded all parties an equal $10,000 each for their injuries.

The jury also determined each party's degree of fault:

  • Margaret was not found at fault - she collects the full $10,000
  • The texting driver was 20% at fault - she collects $8,000
  • The speeding driver was 80% at fault - he collects $2,000

As you can see, in each case the percentage of fault subtracts the available compensation awarded by the jury. Only Margaret, who was not found to be at all at fault was able to collect the full $10,000.

Compensation when still at fault?

You'll notice in Margaret's case the speeding driver, who was found to be chiefly responsible for the accident, was still able to collect money. That's because California's comparative fault law does not have a "cap" on how liable a defendant can be before disqualifying them from receiving money. Under the law, even individuals who are 99% at fault for an accident can still receive money if they suffered damages or an injury.

The flexibility that comparative fault offers also means it allows for greater debate in and outside the courtroom about how much blame each party should shoulder. If you have been hurt in an auto accident you may have partially contributed to, ensure that your counsel is ready to properly assert the facts. At The Law Offices of Gerald L. Marcus, our experienced Calabasas car accident attorneys know what it takes to demonstrate our clients' claims to relief following a collision. Our diligence, knowledge, and prowess can ensure that maximum compensation is always pursued on your behalf.

Start exploring your options today. Call us at 800.905.8777 now.