www.legallistings.us - LegalListings.us

What is Comparative Negligence and Why Does it Matter?

What is Comparative Negligence and Why Does it Matter?

Injured plaintiffs encounter many new terms when pursuing compensation, and a classic example is the phrase “comparative negligence.” This “legalese” phrase might sound complicated, but the basic concept is actually quite simple. Although plaintiffs can rely upon their injury attorneys to handle the most complex legal tasks, a general understanding of comparative negligence can be helpful. Perhaps most importantly, it helps plaintiffs understand that even if they were partly responsible for their own accidents, they can still pursue compensation. 

What is the Definition of Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that California civil courts follow. Essentially, a system of comparative negligence allows courts to divide fault between numerous parties, including the plaintiffs themselves. 

Let’s start by defining negligence. In the legal world, people are negligent when they contribute to the injuries of others. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must show that the defendant is “guilty.” In a civil case, however, the plaintiff must show that the defendant is “negligent.” In other words, negligence represents wrongdoing or fault of some kind. 

In order to prove that someone else was negligent in causing your injuries, you usually need to show that four elements are present: 

  • Duty of Care
  • Breach of Duty
  • Causation
  • Injuries 

In other words, you need to show that someone had a duty to act in a responsible manner, that they failed to do so, and that this failure led directly to legitimate injuries. 

“Comparative negligence” involves comparing the different levels of negligence across multiple parties. Under this system, multiple individuals may be responsible for the same injuries, and each individual might have contributed to the injuries in different ways. 

Examples of Comparative Negligence in California

California is an “at-fault” state when it comes to car accidents, which means that in order to pursue compensation, injured plaintiffs must show that someone else was responsible for their injuries. Some of the most notable examples of comparative negligence involve car accidents. 

Assume that two cars are driving toward an intersection. One driver is intoxicated while driving above the speed limit. The other driver is texting, although they are under the speed limit, they have taken their eyes off the road. Both drivers run through their respective stop signs and collide in the middle of the intersection. Which driver caused the crash? The obvious answer is that both drivers contributed to the collision in different ways. 

In order to resolve this situation, courts must determine the fault of each driver. This level of fault is represented by a percentage. For example, a court may determine that both drivers were 50% responsible for the crash. On the other hand, a court may come to the conclusion that the drunk, speeding driver was 75% responsible for the crash, while the other driver was 25% responsible. This is how comparative negligence works in practice. 

Comparative negligence also applies to many other types of accidents, including premise liability. For example, a sign on a roller coaster might warn visitors that they should not enter the ride if they are above a certain weight. If a visitor disregards this sign, they might be partially at fault for their own injuries. This is especially true if the sign is displayed in a clear, easy-to-read manner. 

How Does Comparative Negligence Work in California?

While many different states follow the system of comparative negligence, there are different variations of this doctrine. California follows a system of “pure” comparative negligence. Under this system, an injured victim may pursue compensation even if they were 99% responsible for their own crash. In other words, plaintiffs can pursue compensation as long as they can show that another party was at least somewhat responsible for their injuries. 

Many other states follow a system of “modified” comparative negligence. Usually, this prevents plaintiffs from pursuing compensation if they are approximately 50% responsible for their crashes. In this way, California offers injured plaintiffs more leniency than many other jurisdictions.  

Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence

Comparative negligence is not the only system of its kind in the United States. A few states follow a very different system called “contributory negligence.” Under this system, plaintiffs lose the opportunity to pursue compensation even if they are just 1% responsible for their own injuries. In other words, this is the exact opposite of the system followed in California. Needless to say, it is much easier to pursue compensation for injuries in California compared to these contributory negligence jurisdictions. 

So Why Does Comparative Negligence Matter?

Comparative negligence matters because it gives you the opportunity to sue even if you think you might have partially caused your own accident. Many plaintiffs mistakenly believe that if they caused their crashes, they lose the ability to sue. This just is not the case, and plaintiffs should always check with California injury attorneys before they give up on compensation. 

About the Author:

Miracle Law, APC

At Miracle Law, APC, our personal injury lawyers represent clients throughout California, because we believe everyone deserves access to the legal resources that will help them take back control of their lives after an accident.Our Rancho Cucamonga  personal injury attorneys understand that biases exist inside and outside the courtroom, and work tirelessly to mitigate the circumstances that lead to injury victims being discounted by the insurance companies.Our aggressive personal injury lawyers outline each of our client’s cases based on the legal knowledge and experience necessary to pursue results. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a personal injury incident in Rancho... View full business profile here: Miracle Law, APC

Comments, Thoughts & Responses