What Is Pure Comparative Negligence in California?

During a personal injury claim, you may hear the phrase “pure comparative negligence.” This is a term your personal injury lawyer might use when discussing the potential outcome of your case. Pure comparative negligence laws could impact how much you receive for your injuries. Each state has unique fault and negligence laws. Understanding the law in California can help you recognize the value of your case.

Different Negligence Doctrines

Comparative negligence is a type of negligence doctrine that may apply to a personal injury case. It refers to the degree of a plaintiff’s fault compared to that of the defendant. Comparative negligence can bar a plaintiff from recovery in some states. Most states, however, permit at least partial recovery if a plaintiff contributed to the incident.

  • Comparative fault. Comparative fault holds the plaintiff and the defendant responsible for the degree of damages their actions caused. The courts will subtract the plaintiff’s percentage of negligence from his or her compensation award. In a pure comparative negligence state, a plaintiff can be 99% responsible and still recover compensation. In modified comparative negligence states, a plaintiff may not be more than 49-51% responsible, or else lose any right to recovery.
  • Contributory negligence. Contributory negligence means that if a plaintiff contributed at all to the accident, he or she cannot receive any financial recovery. In these states, even if the plaintiff is just 1% at fault for an accident, the plaintiff forfeits any right to compensation. Most states have moved away from contributory negligence laws and instead adopted comparative negligence ones.
  • Joint and several liabilities. This rule allows a plaintiff to recover the full value of a settlement or verdict from more than one liable defendant. The courts may divide contributory negligence among multiple defendants during additional lawsuits, in which each defendant files against the other for contribution. Each defendant will then have to pay a percentage of the award to the plaintiff.

Understanding blame, responsibility, and liability for an accident can be difficult. It may take an attorney to break down the comparative fault laws in your state. Comparative fault laws are why it is so important not to admit fault after an accident. Your goal should be to minimize your liability for an accident while still telling the truth. A lawyer can help you navigate your case.

California’s Pure Comparative Negligence Law

California is a pure comparative negligence state. State courts allow injured parties to collect damages even if they are 99% at fault for an accident. California does not cap the amount of fault at 50%, as is the case in modified comparative negligence states. However, the courts will reduce the plaintiff’s award by his or her percentage of fault. If the courts find you 20% at fault for a car accident, for example, you would receive $80,000 of a $100,000 verdict (100,000 – [100,000 x 0.20]). The higher your percentage of fault, the smaller your recovery amount.

To prove the defendant’s fault and maximize a recovery award, you or your lawyer will have to show that the defendant owed you a duty of care, breached this duty, and caused your accident. These are the main elements involved in a personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer will also need to show that you suffered specific damage as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty. If your lawyer can prove those four elements, you can recover at least a percentage of compensation from the defendant. Otherwise, you may not have a case.

The law in California states that everyone is responsible for the results of his or her actions, except so far as the victim has willfully or wantonly brought the injury about his or herself. Pure comparative fault laws divide negligence and liability among multiple parties. To negotiate your claim successfully under California’s negligence laws, take the time to call and hire a personal injury attorney to represent you. Your lawyer can help you understand how pure comparative negligence works.