If you are partly responsible for the accident in which you were hurt, can you hold another party liable for your damages?
Under California law, the answer is yes, under some circumstances.
Pure comparative negligence
In the past, courts would not allow an injured party to recover compensation if they bore any of the fault for the accident in which they were injured. A person who was struck and badly injured by a drunk driver might be barred from recovery if it turned out that they had been driving slightly over the speed limit at the time of the crash.
Eventually, courts and lawmakers began to feel this system was unfair. Today, most states have abandoned it in favor of more forgiving laws.
California law follows a legal theory known as pure comparative negligence. Under this theory, an injured person can hold a negligent party liable for their damages, even if they themselves were partly at fault for the accident in which they were injured, but their recovery is reduced in proportion to their share of fault.
To resolve cases like this, California courts hear the evidence of the accident and assign a percentage of blame to each party. If the court finds the plaintiff was 30% at fault and the defendant was 70% at fault, the plaintiff can recover compensation, but their recovery will be reduced by 30%. If they suffered $100,000 in damages, they could recover only $70,000.
In fact, California law allows the plaintiff to recover compensation even if they bore the bulk of the fault for the accident. In theory, a plaintiff who was 99% at fault could recover compensation, but their recovery would be reduced by 99%. In practice, the injured should get professional advice and give careful consideration to their options.
People who have been injured, or who have lost a loved one, in an accident can discuss the circumstances of their case with a personal injury attorney to learn about their options for recovering compensation. They may have a better chance than they think they do.