Getting into a car accident is a frightening experience and it can result in some pretty serious injuries and property damage. Knowing it wasn’t your fault can put your mind to rest about compensation because it’s easy to believe it is coming when you know you share no fault. But what about when you do share some of the blame for the car accident?
Don’t worry, California is one of the better states for getting compensation even when you do share part of the blame. To understand why we’ll first look at what is required to win a car accident case. This will give us the necessary legal framework to understand how cases function when you share partial blame for your car accident. We’ll even look at what behaviors could reduce the compensation you get, so you can be prepared for the outcome.
What Factors Go Into Winning a Car Accident Case?
We can use words like blame and fault, but until we understand what they mean in a legal sense they are just more words. However, once we understand what goes into winning a car accident case we will be able to properly answer questions regarding blame.
In order to win a car accident case, you need to show a chain of connection to the courtroom. At the core of this chain is the idea that the other party acted in a negligent or careless manner and it was this that puts them at fault. This means that every car accident case is predicated on the idea that the other party did something wrong and thereby caused the accident.
It’s important to note that not every car accident will have somebody who is at fault in the legal sense. Sometimes the real cause is mother nature or an act of god. However, most cases will have an individual who is clearly at or mostly at fault.
Generally, to win a car accident case it must be shown that:
- The other party had a duty that owed you to operate their vehicle in a safe manner; this is a duty we all take on whenever we get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
- The other party breached their duty of care through their behavior; this could mean making unsafe turns, driving while intoxicated, or any number of other behaviors that demonstrate a failure to live up to the duty of care owed to other drivers.
- That you suffered damages, such as physical injury or property damage and lost wages, due to the accident in question.
- That your injuries were caused in whole or in part by the other party’s failure to live up to their duty of care and the subsequent accident.
By showing these four elements, there is a good chance you can win a case. In some cases, it is particularly easy to do so, such as cases with negligence per se wherein the other party clearly violated a statute or regulation and thereby caused injuries. For example, getting into an accident when running a red light.
What Happens If I Share Partial Blame for My Car Accident?
While some car accidents are clearly the fault of one individual, more often than not the blame for an accident will be shared. For example, the other driver may have most of the blame because they were speeding and driving recklessly but you entered their lane without a proper signal. If they had been driving safely then they would have been able to slow down in time to prevent an accident but your behavior was risky.
After a determination of all the factors, it is decided that you share 20% of the blame for the accident. Does this mean that you won’t be able to get compensation for the damages you suffered? No, you can still get compensation.
California is what we call a pure comparative fault state. In these states, you can get compensation back even if you were responsible for 99% of the accident. Other states make it so that if you have 51% of the fault then you won’t be able to get anything bad. But pure comparative fault states don’t do that.
What will happen is since you were found 20% at fault, you will lose out on 20% of the damages you would be awarded. If you were going to get $10,000 then you would only get $8,000 instead. So the more at fault you are, the less you can get back but you are still more than able to get something back even if you share partial blame.
What Behaviors Could Reduce the Compensation I Could Get?
There are a number of behaviors that are fairly common among drivers that could be used to argue they share a portion of the blame in the case of an accident. By looking at these behaviors early and grasping how they could negatively impact your case, you can take measures to reduce how often you partake in negative behaviors.
Behaviors that could negatively impact the compensation you get from a car accident include (but are not limited to):
- Driving while distracted; could be as simple as spending too much attention on dialing in a radio station.
- Eating while driving is a distraction in and of itself.
- Texting or talking on the phone while driving; there are also laws in most states to reduce this behavior through ticketing.
- Driving while exhausted; if you are too tired to drive safely then you shouldn’t be driving at all.
Spending too much time looking at the map or GPS and not enough time paying attention to the road.
- Driving while trying to do your make-up or brush your hair; you may have started the day late but you can until you are parked before worrying about your appearance.
- Listening to loud music; despite the fact that our vehicles tend to have great stereos, listening to them too loud can be used against us to argue we share partial blame.
- While driving with loud music is bad, driving with headphones is much worse because it cuts you off from outside sounds.
Should I Work with an Attorney?
An attorney can be the difference between winning a case and losing one.
Reach out to an attorney after you get medical treatment to learn how they can help you get the compensation you deserve.