Comparative Fault

Under the rule of comparative fault, if you were partially at fault for an accident, you can still recover financial damages for your injuries.  As long as you were not totally at fault, your damages will simply be reduced by the percentage of fault that is attributed to you.  It is important to note that this rule is applied differently in different states.   California applies a rule of pure comparative fault, where as other states apply a different rule.  Your lawyer must determine from the outset which state’s law applies, as that may have a huge impact on the success of your personal injury claim.

How the Rule of Comparative Fault Works

The way comparative fault works in practice is that the Court will assign a percentage of fault to you and a percentage is assigned to the other person or persons involved in the accident.  Once the percentages of fault are assigned, each person will be responsible for a percentage of your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other financial damages, that is equal to the percentage assigned to that person.  For example, let’s way you were 40% at fault for a car accident and the other driver was 60% at fault, and let’s say that your total financial damages are $10,000.   You would be responsible for 40%, or $4,000, of your damages, and the other person would be responsible for 60%, or $6,000, of your damages.

Pure Comparative Fault in California

Different states apply the rule of comparative fault differently.  In California, the rule is applied according to a rule of pure comparative fault.  Under the pure comparative fault rule, as long as you were not 100% at fault, you can bring a claim against the person who was partially responsible for causing your injuries and hold them accountable.  You can bring a claim even if you were 99% responsible and the other person was only 1% responsible.  However, in such a case, the other person would be responsible for only1% of your damages (medical bills, pain and suffering, etc).

Other States

In some states other than the State of California, personal injury law is quite different and the rule of comparative fault is applied very differently.   In these states, if you were more than 50% percent at-fault in causing an accident, you are barred from bringing a claim.  For this reason, it is imperative to determine which state’s laws apply, from the outset of your personal injury case.

Public Policy

The rule of comparative fault is based on a public policy of holding people accountable for their relative negligence.  If you were injured partly because of your own negligence and partly because of the negligent conduct of another person, you should not be totally barred from bringing a claim.  Rather, financial responsibility for your damages is apportioned between you and the other person according to your respective percentages of fault.

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