Can I File A Personal Injury Lawsuit If I’m Partially to Blame For the Accident?
People who are injured due to the negligent acts of another person have the legal right to file a personal injury claim against the responsible party in order to recover compensation. But, sometimes there is more than one party that is responsible for the accident. In many cases, some of the blame for the accident falls on the victim who is filing the personal injury claim. If a victim is partially to blame for their injuries, do they have the right to file a personal injury claim? Will they be able to recover compensation? Here’s what you need to know if you find yourself in this situation:
Negligence in Personal Injury Cases
The first step to understanding how liability is determined and compensation is awarded in a personal injury case is learning about negligence. The burden of proof falls on the plaintiff in personal injury cases. To put it simply, this means the victim is responsible for proving that the defendant was negligent and that this negligence directly led to the victim’s injuries. This is done by proving:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached the duty of care
- The breach directly led to the plaintiff’s injuries
People have a “duty of care” when they are legally obligated to act in a reasonable and responsible manner in order to avoid hurting anyone. For example, every driver owes a duty of care to other drivers, which means they must drive responsibly so they don’t injure other people on the road. Another example would be a property owner’s legal obligation to maintain safe conditions on their property. In this example, the property owner owes a duty of care to people who legally visit the property.
Once the plaintiff has proven the duty of care exists, they must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care. There are many ways that someone can breach the duty of care owed to another person. Running a red light or speeding are two examples of how a driver can breach their duty of care, for instance. As long as the behavior is considered unreasonable and irresponsible, it can be classified as a breach of the duty of care.
Plaintiffs cannot recover compensation simply by proving that the defendant breached their duty of care. To recover compensation, the plaintiff must be able to show the link between the breach and the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, a defendant will not be ordered to compensate the plaintiff simply because they ran a red light. However, if they injured the plaintiff while running through the red light, this shows that the defendant’s negligent behavior caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Proving these elements of negligence is key to proving liability in a personal injury case. If you successfully prove these elements of negligence, you can recover compensation from the defendant for your injuries.
Pure Comparative Negligence Laws in California
In some personal injury cases, the jury simply has to decide whether or not the defendant’s negligence led to the plaintiff’s injuries. However, if the defendant argues that the plaintiff was partially to blame for the accident, the jury must decide if this is true. If the jury believes that both the plaintiff and defendant are partially to blame, they must determine how much of the fault falls on each of the parties.
For example, let’s say the jury decides the plaintiff is entitled to $100,000 in damages. The jury determines that the defendant is 70% responsible for the car accident because it occurred as a result of their failure to stop at a red light. The jury also decides that the plaintiff is 30% responsible for the accident because they were distracted and speeding at the time of the accident. Since the plaintiff is 30% responsible for the accident, they will only be allowed to recover 70% of the $100,000 award.
This example illustrates how California’s pure comparative negligence laws work. When a plaintiff is partially to blame for an accident, they can still recover compensation, however they will not be able to recover the full amount. Instead, their compensation will be reduced to account for the role they played in causing the accident.
Each state has its own negligence laws. Some states prohibit plaintiffs from being able to recover compensation if the jury finds that they were more than 50% to blame for the accident. For instance, a plaintiff who is 30% responsible for the accident would still be able to recover 70% of compensation. However, a plaintiff who is found to be more than 50% liable for the accident would not be awarded any compensation. These are called modified comparative negligence laws, and they do not apply to cases in the state of California.
California has adopted pure comparative negligence laws. These negligence laws make it possible for plaintiffs to recover compensation even if they played more of a role in the cause of the accident than the defendant did. Technically, a plaintiff could still recover 1% of their compensation even if they were 99% responsible for the accident. Therefore, it is possible for a victim to file and recover compensation in a personal injury claim even if they are partially to blame for the accident that occurred.
Have you been injured in an accident that was not completely your fault? If so, contact Carpenter & Zuckerman as soon as possible after the accident to discuss your case in more detail. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys will fight tirelessly to recover the compensation that you deserve. If you are partially to blame for the accident that occurred, we will minimize your role to ensure you are compensated fairly.
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