The short answer is “maybe.”
It is not always the case that an accident victim is 100 percent responsible for his or her injuries following a car accident, bike accident, slip and fall or other accident. Recognizing this, the state of California has what is known as a Comparative Fault or Comparative Negligence law. Under this law, the injured party in an accident may be able to recover damages even if they were partially at fault in the accident themselves.
Under the comparative fault law, the victim of a personal injury accident may be able to hold the other negligent or at-fault party partially liable for damages and losses. Who pays what and what percentage of liability is assigned to each party is the responsibility of the judge and jury in the case. When the jury finds partial fault lies with the victim, the amount that the victim is awarded is reduced by his percentage of fault. For example, if the victim is 55 percent at fault, then his award is reduced by 55 percent.
Comparative negligence rules can be applied in most types of personal injury cases in California. However, it is mostly put to use in litigating car accident, bicycle accident, premises liability, medical malpractice, product liability and slip and fall accidents.
Juries in cases where comparative fault is coming into play ask that the defendant in the case prove that the plaintiff was negligence and that the negligence played a substantial factor in causing the defendant’s injury. The total liability between the plaintiff and defendant is determined by an array of different factors, with the total of each party’s liabilities together equaling 100 percent.
As an example, a man throws a rock at a dog, and the dog attacks him, injuring him and causing damages amounting to $90,000. A jury finds that because the man threw the rock at the dog, the man is responsible for one-third of his own damages, since he incited the dog to attack. The owner of the dog is two-thirds responsible, says the jury, because the dog was running off its leash at the time of the attack. In this case, the injured party would collect $60,000 in damages and be held responsible for $30,000 in damages himself.
Comparative fault often comes into question in premises liability cases where both the owner of a property and the injured party share negligence. Accidents of this type generally occur in restaurants, stores or the workplace. Under premises liability rules, property owners have a duty of care, which makes them obliged to exercise care in maintaining and inspecting the property and repairing any dangers or perils or warning against dangerous conditions. It is often the case that the dangerous condition combined with the negligence of the victim results in injury. In these cases, comparative fault allows the accident victim to collect a percentage of their damages based on the percentage of fault assigned by the jury.
It is worth noting that there are sometimes more than two parties involved in such claims. In this case, fault can be assigned to the plaintiff and multiple defendants.
If you have been experienced a personal injury, contact Compass Law Group right away. Our personal injury attorney can answer any questions you have and help you determine your legal options, even if you are partially at fault.