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How Do Comparative Negligence Laws Affect My L.A. Auto Accident Claim?

Establishing liability in a car accident is never cut and dry. Even when victims experience catastrophic injuries at the hands of negligent drivers, these wrongdoers and their insurance companies rarely accept liability. In some cases, car accident victims may be blamed for their own injuries and offered settlements that seem to low to adequately compensate the victim.


Under a little known legal concept known as “comparative negligence,” at-fault drivers and even the insurance companies meant to compensate victims may attempt to skirt their responsibilities. Victims attempting to recover for the damages should make an effort to understand this concept so they can fight back and get the compensation they need to be made whole again and move on with their lives.


Contributory negligence laws


Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, accident victims whose actions contribute in even the slightest bit to their injuries may be barred from recovering compensation in tort claims. Fortunately, California does not follow this legal principle. Only certain jurisdictions (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.) enforce contributory negligence statutes.


Comparative negligence laws


Under comparative negligence statutes, the role a victim’s own actions played in an accident may reduce or bar recovery of damages. Two different types of comparative negligence statutes exist: pure and modified.


  • Pure comparative negligence: Damages are reduced proportionate to the role a plaintiff’s own negligence played in their injury. For example: in a case with a $10,000 settlement where courts determined the victim was 10 percent at fault, the award would be reduced by $1,000 to an award of $9,000.
  • Modified comparative negligence: Plaintiffs determined to be 50 percent or more at fault may not recover damages in a civil lawsuit. Defendants may file motions before trial to assert this or courts may determine this when handing down a ruling.


California follows the legal principle of pure comparative fault which means even if accident victims are even 90 percent at fault in an auto accident, they may still recover damages. Insurance companies will often cite a victim’s own negligence when offering settlements in car accidents as a ploy to pay as little as possible.


Los Angeles auto accident attorneys


After an accident, it can be difficult to understand if you are getting the right offer from an insurance company. Claims processes are not always easy to handle and adjusters do not always take victims at their word. After all, insurance companies are really in the business of making money and not helping people.


Auto accident victims should strongly consider speaking to a qualified Los Angeles auto accident attorney from the very onset of their case to make sure they are taken seriously by defendants and their insurance companies. Attorneys can help make sure victims are compensated for their property damage, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages.


Attorneys also have the legal training and experience to mitigate allegations victims somehow played a role in their own accident and injuries. Contact a qualified Los Angeles auto accident attorney and get the compensation you need.

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