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California’s comparative negligence law impacts settlements

On Behalf of | May 10, 2024 | car accidents |

In California, comparative negligence law plays an important role in determining settlement amounts after car accidents.

This law requires courts to assign a percentage of fault to each party involved in the accident. The percentage of fault directly influences the compensation that a victim can receive.

Assigning fault in accidents

The core principle of comparative negligence is that a person can receive compensation even if they share some of the blame for the accident. For example, if a court finds that a driver is 30 percent responsible for an accident and the damages amount to $10,000, the driver could still recover $7,000.

When an accident occurs, insurance companies typically conduct an initial assessment of fault based on the evidence they collect. They look at police reports, witness statements and any available physical or video evidence. The goal is to establish a fault percentage that will guide the settlement negotiations.

This process of determining fault is not always straightforward. Disputes often arise about the degree to which each party contributed to the accident. It is common for an insurance company to argue that the claimant has a higher degree of fault to reduce the payout. When parties cannot agree, the case might proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will decide the fault percentages based on the evidence presented.

Partial fault and recovery

Understanding comparative negligence can empower accident victims. Knowing that they can recover a portion of the damages even if they are partly at fault can encourage them to pursue claims they might otherwise dismiss. It also emphasizes the importance of gathering comprehensive evidence to support their version of events.

Encouraging responsible driving

The comparative negligence system in California also encourages drivers to take responsibility for their actions. It motivates them to drive more cautiously, knowing that their level of fault in an accident will directly affect their financial responsibility for any damages incurred.

California’s comparative negligence law significantly impacts how courts and insurance companies determine settlement amounts for car accidents. It ensures that all parties pay only for the portion of the damage they cause. This system reflects a nuanced approach to accident liability and helps maintain a balanced legal framework for resolving disputes arising from car accidents.