In many car accidents, determining who is at fault is often pretty cut and dry. But what happens when both drivers share responsibility for the collision? Can you still recover damages if you were partially to blame, or if multiple parties contributed to the accident?
The short answer is, yes, you can. You may still be able to collect damages under California’s comparative negligence system.
At Russell & Lazarus APC, we can help you wade through the legal system and seek compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to learn more about how an Orange County car accident lawyer can help.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence law allows both drivers at fault to collect damages for their injuries and losses. It aims to better assess and distribute liability among all parties.
In California, pure comparative negligence laws limit the amount of damages an individual may recover based on that person’s percentage of negligence, which led to the accident and resulting injuries in the case. This often comes into play in cases that involve multiple defendants, such as car accidents.
How the Court Determines Damages Based on Comparative Fault
In car accident cases with both drivers at fault, the court will determine the percentage of negligence of each party. In other words, if both drivers’ actions contributed to a car accident, the court would need to determine which percentage of damage each driver caused.
For example, let’s say the plaintiff’s damages totaled $100,000. If the court determines that the plaintiff caused 20% of the damage, then the defendant is deemed 80% at fault. Using these percentages, the plaintiff would be entitled to collect $80,000 from the defendant.
How does the court determine these percentages? It does so by considering the actions that led to the accident injuries, including:
- Driving while distracted
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Failing to follow traffic signs and signals
- Driving with a flat tire or broken tail light or brake light
The mental and physical states of the parties involved also help the court in determining negligence.
What If Multiple Defendants Contributed to the Accident?
When multiple defendants contributed to a car accident, they must share the responsibility of covering the innocent party’s financial damages.
How does that work? Well, let’s say Driver A was hit by two different drivers (Driver B and Driver C) in a case that incurs $100,000 in damages. Driver B is found 75% at fault, and Driver C is found 25% at fault.
In theory, Driver B should have to pay $75,000 in damages, while Driver C only has to pay $25,000. But in order to make it somewhat easier for Driver A to collect damages, the law makes it so that both Driver B and Driver C are both liable for the full amount of $100,000. The idea is that they can settle the amount between themselves later.
What Is Joint and Several Liability?
Though recovering damages from multiple defendants is possible, it can present its own challenges. So in order to make the process even simpler for plaintiffs, there is a limited form of joint and several liability that allows the plaintiff to recover damages from only one of the negligent parties. The one at-fault party can then seek contributions from the other responsible parties.
Joint and Several Liability Limits Damages
Though it seems like the simpler path for plaintiffs, joint and several liability in California significantly restricts the damages that may be collected. Only economic damages, such as medical treatment expenses or lost wages, may be collected. To receive economic damages, as well as non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, you must file a claim against each defendant separately.
You Can Still Collect Damages, Even If You Are Partially at Fault
The point is, under California’s comparative negligence laws, you may still be able to recover damages even if you or multiple parties were at fault for the accident. If you sustained injuries in an accident, an experienced injury attorney help you navigate California accident laws. An attorney can examine how comparative fault applies in your case and inform you of your options.