With the exception of 15 states (12 no-fault and 3 “choice” states), the majority of states are considered at-fault states, including California. This means that one or both parties (or even additional parties) may be at-fault. There are multiple factors to consider when trying to determine fault. Even if you’re somewhat at-fault for the accident, you may still have a valid damage claim. Learn more about how fault is decided in California auto accidents.
Proving Negligence and At-Fault Parties: Things to Consider
It can be extremely difficult to prove who is at fault in a car accident and to what extent. Many factors come into play when investigating the details of an accident, and not all of them are clear-cut. Generally, at-fault parties are determined by examining the circumstances surrounding an accident and the vehicle operators’ respective roles.
Consider the following scenario: Driver #1 runs into a fire hydrant at night while distracted because he is texting on his phone. Driver #2 doesn’t notice the water-covered road and loses control of his vehicle as he goes full speed through the water and ultimately runs into Driver #3. At first glance, the first and second drivers are at fault. But is that the whole story? If Driver #3 is carried off to the hospital and not in a condition to speak with law enforcement, their side of the story doesn’t make it into the initial police reports.
This is a short, relatively simple example that showcases just how confusing determining fault can be. In California, the negligent individual(s) are at-fault if it can be proven they failed to maintain safe driving practices in accordance with the law. A few of the most significant pieces of information needed to prove fault include:
- The police report
- Photos or video of accident scene and damages
- Witness testimony
- Material evidence, such as tire patterns
At times, it may be necessary to work with an accident reconstruction specialist skilled in recreating the events leading up to the accident. All information will be reviewed to ultimately determine who is at fault.
There Is More Than One At-Fault Party. How Complicated Will a Lawsuit Be?
When a car accident lawsuit involves more than one at-fault party, it can complicate the process of recovery for the plaintiff. However, that doesn’t mean you should forego the option of filing a suit. The length of your case from start to finish will depend on a few different factors, including:
- Severity of illnesses of injuries directly resulting from the accident
- Availability of evidence and witnesses
- Whether the defense claims you are partially at fault
- The amount of your damage claim (larger claims may take longer to recover)
- Whether you plan to settle or take your case before a jury
Your best option is to discuss your situation with an attorney with a proven record of positive outcomes in complex personal injury cases.
Can I File A Lawsuit If I’m At Fault?
Under California law, you can still file a lawsuit to recover damages due to property loss, lost wages, or accident-related injuries if you’re partially at fault. However, it’s important to discuss your case and legal options with a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney skilled in at-fault car accident cases. Your case may fall under California’s pure comparative negligence rule, which states that a jury must determine the percentage to which each party is at fault.
If a jury determines you are partially at fault, you may lose part of your award. For instance, if the accident wasn’t technically your fault, but it was determined that you were driving while distracted, you may not see full compensation. When two parties share a percentage of fault, or a third party is also partially at fault, only an experienced personal injury attorney can advise you if filing a lawsuit is in your best interest.
Get Immediate Help with Your Car Accident Lawsuit
It can be tricky to determine if and to what extent someone is at-fault in a car accident. Even if you’re partially at fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses or injuries. The good news is you don’t have to figure it out by yourself. With more than 60 years of combined personal injury experience, the Redlands car accident attorneys at Peach and Weathers provide expert legal counsel in car accident lawsuit cases. Contact us today to discuss your legal options.