Each year, nearly 1.3 million people worldwide lose their lives as a result of a car accident, and between 20 to 50 million more suffer non-fatal injuries. Most recent data from 2023 indicates there have been 37,290 total crashes in California. Of these car accidents, nearly 4,000 are deemed serious or fatal.
Anyone injured as a result of an accident can pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. However, determining fault in car accident cases can be challenging, and if you believe you may have shared responsibility for the collision, you likely have a lot of questions.
The likelihood of experiencing serious injuries in an accident depends on various factors. However, serious crashes can cause injuries to anyone in the vicinity, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bystanders. Those who may be responsible for an accident but have suffered injuries themselves should consult with an experienced California car accident attorney to learn about their rights, responsibilities, and remedies.
California’s At-Fault Car Accident Laws
California is an “at-fault” or “tort” state regarding car accidents. Under this system, drivers who cause a car accident are responsible for compensating the other party for their injuries and damages. An at-fault California driver can meet this obligation through an insurance claim or paying the other driver out of pocket. In some car accidents, fault determinations are straightforward. However, given the complex nature of car accidents, fault is rarely 100% clear or completely one-sided.
Types of Fault in California Accidents
There are various fault claims that might be relevant in a car accident case. Car accident claims can involve the following allegations:
- Intentional misconduct, or
- Strict liability
The evidentiary standards in a car accident claim depend on the type of personal injury claim the victim asserts.
How Comparative Negligence Impacts an At-Fault Driver
California car accident cases operate under the pure comparative negligence framework. Under this system, any driver in a car accident can potentially recover damages. As such, an at-fault driver who suffers injuries can recover damages if they establish that the other party bore some responsibility for the accident. However, the at-fault driver’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault.
For example, suppose Driver A was driving down Van Ness Avenue and, while texting, crashed into Driver B, who was speeding. After an investigation, the court determined that Driver A was 60% at fault for the accident, and Driver B was 40% at fault. If Driver A has $90,000 in damages, she can still pursue damages from Driver B. However, because she is 60% at fault, she would only recover 40% of her damages from Driver B or his insurance. Furthermore, Driver A’s damages may be offset if Driver B suffered any damages as a result of Driver A’s fault.
Determining Fault in a Car Accident
California’s comparative fault system allows accident victims to hold negligent drivers liable while fairly apportioning fault. However, it is essential to note that fault determinations are often contentious. Insurance companies may deny or dispute claims, and the parties will likely have differing accounts of the accident.
An attorney can help an accident victim assess relevant evidence, review current laws, and present a compelling case for compensation. Insurers and courts may make fault determinations by:
- Examining traffic laws,
- Analyzing the accident scene,
- Reviewing witness statements,
- Reviewing police reports, and
- Retaining expert witnesses.
In these cases, potentially at-fault drivers should consult with an attorney to ensure that they recover the damages they are entitled to under the law. An inaccurate fault determination can have lasting consequences on the seemingly at-fault party.
Damages in California Car Accident Lawsuit
Recoverable damages depend on the facts and circumstances of the accident. However, some common damages that an at-fault driver may recover include:
- Medical expenses,
- Property damage,
- Lost wages,
- Loss of earning capacity, and
- Pain and suffering.
In rare cases, California car accident victims may secure punitive damages. However, these cases require the parties to meet a higher evidentiary threshold. For example, in most cases, the victim must establish that the other party acted with malice, oppression, or fraudulently.
Learn More About What Happens If the At-Fault Driver Is Injured in a Car Accident
If you or a loved one was recently injured in an accident, regardless of who was at fault, it’s natural to have questions. The fact that the other driver was hurt doesn’t necessarily prevent you from being able to recover compensation for your injuries. At the Law Offices of Ali Yousefi, we are dedicated to aggressively advocating on behalf of all accident victims, ensuring they recover the damages they need, deserve, and are legally entitled to. We take a comprehensive approach to every case we handle, catering our representation to your unique needs. To learn more and schedule a free consultation today, call the Law Offices of Ali Yousefi. You can also reach us through our secure online contact form.