Have you been injured in a California traffic accident? Is the insurance company for the other driver blaming you for the accident? If so, the insurance provider may be attempting to reduce its liability for the car accident by using California’s comparative fault laws. If so, we urge you to contact our California car accident attorney immediately for a free consultation to discuss your case. You could lose substantial compensation under comparative fault laws.
Keep reading to learn more about:
- California is an At-Fault State for Car Accidents
- What is Comparative Fault?
- How Does Comparative Fault Work in California?
- Steps to Protect Yourself from Comparative Fault Allegations
California is an At-Fault State for Car Accidents
California is considered an at-fault state for personal injury claims related to car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents. You must prove that another driver or a third party caused the car accident before you can recover compensation for your injuries and losses.
Required Car Insurance in California
Financial responsibility is required for all vehicles operated in California. Most people choose to purchase automobile liability insurance to satisfy the financial responsibility requirements. California’s minimum car insurance requirements are:
- $15,000 in liability insurance for bodily injury or death to one person
- $30,000 in liability insurance for bodily injury or death to more than one person per accident
- $5,000 in property damage liability insurance
If you can prove that a driver was responsible (at-fault) for the cause of a motor vehicle accident, that driver is liable for any damages and losses caused by the accident. However, the driver’s insurance company is only liable for damages up to the policy limits.
Therefore, if you prove that the other driver caused your car crash and the driver has minimum liability insurance, the most you can receive from the insurance company for a claim is $15,000. For serious injuries, $15,000 might not cover your medical expenses, much less your loss of income, pain, and suffering.
The driver is liable for any damages that the insurance company does not cover. However, collecting compensation from most drivers is difficult, if not impossible.
Therefore, it is a wise decision to carry underinsured motorist coverage as part of your insurance policy.
Optional Forms of Car Insurance You May Need to Protect Yourself
Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) provides coverage if you are injured in a traffic accident caused by an uninsured driver. Most policies also cover accidents involving a hit and run driver. Your insurance company pays your damages and losses up to your policy limits after you prove that the uninsured driver caused the accident.
Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) provides coverage if you are injured in a traffic accident caused by another driver who does not have sufficient insurance to pay your claim. After the other driver’s insurance pays the full policy limits of the driver’s car insurance policy, your insurance company pays the rest of your claim, up to your policy limits.
For example, let’s assume your car accident claims is worth $60,000. The other driver has minimum car insurance coverage. You carry $50,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. Therefore, you receive $15,000 from the other driver’s insurance company. Your insurance company pays you $45,000 according to your underinsured motorist coverage.
Because many drivers in California are uninsured or carry minimum insurance coverage, it is a wise choice to carry as much insurance coverage as you can afford. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage protects you and your family if you are in a serious car accident.
What is Comparative Fault?
Comparative fault is a term used to describe dividing damages for an accident between the parties involved in the accident. The damages are assigned to each party based on the amount of fault each party had in causing the car accident. In other words, a party is only responsible for paying a percentage of the damages equal to the percent of fault assigned to that party for causing the accident.
In a car crash, if a driver is 100 percent at fault for causing a collision, the driver is responsible for all damages caused by the traffic accident.
For instance, a driver fails to yield the right of way and turns left in front of a motorcyclist, causing a motorcycle accident. In most cases, the driver who failed to yield the right of way is at-fault for the accident. If the driver is found to be 100 percent at fault, the driver is responsible for all the motorcyclist’s damages, including medical bills, loss of income, injuries, pain, and suffering.
However, if the motorcyclist is found to be partially at fault for the cause of the crash, the motorcyclist would not be entitled to full compensation of all damages under California’s comparative fault laws.
How Does Comparative Fault Work in California?
Under the comparative fault rules in California, a victim’s compensation may be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the victim for causing the car accident. In other words, if you are partially responsible for causing the crash, you may not receive full compensation for your injuries and damages.
Let’s use the example above about the motorcycle accident. In most cases, the driver who turned left in front of the motorcycle would be completely at fault for the cause of the accident. However, the insurance company for the driver claims that the motorcyclist was speeding at the time of the crash. Because the motorcyclist was speeding, the motorcyclist could not avoid the crash. Also, the crash was more severe because the motorcyclist was speeding.
The insurance company raises comparative fault and refuses to settle the claim. The motorcyclist files a personal injury lawsuit, and the matter goes to trial. At the end of the trial, the jury agrees with the insurance company that the motorcyclist was speeding at the time of the crash. The jury assigns 20 percent of the fault for the accident to the motorcyclist.
The motorcyclist was severely injured in the car accident. His accident claim is valued at $150,000. However, because he was assigned 20 percent of the fault for causing the crash, his compensation is reduced by 20 percent. The most the motorcyclist can receive is $120,000 (the total value less 20 percent).
California is a Pure Comparative Fault State
Four states and the District of Columbia have a pure contributory negligence law. Under pure contributory negligence laws, if the accident victim is even one percent at fault for the cause of a car accident, the victim is barred from recovering any compensation for his injuries or damages.
Some states have a modified comparative fault standard for car accident claims. In those states, if the accident victim is more than 50 or 51 percent at fault for causing the accident, the accident victim is barred from receiving compensation for damages. In other words, the accident victim cannot receive any more for a car accident claim if the victim’s responsibility for causing the accident is more than half.
However, California is one of the states that uses a pure comparative fault standard. Under California’s pure comparative fault laws, an accident victim can be 99 percent at fault and still recover compensation for one percent of the damages from a car accident claim.
Steps to Protect Yourself from Comparative Fault Allegations
Insurance companies use comparative fault to limit their liability for a car accident claim. Blaming the victim for causing the accident is a way to save money, even though the accident victim may not have contributed in any way to the cause of the accident.
One of the most common ways an insurance company gets evidence to use for a comparative fault claim is by taking a recorded or written statement from the accident victim. Some insurance adjusters may tell victims that they cannot process the insurance claim without a statement. Other insurance adjusters may claim that the victim may receive their money more quickly by providing a statement. Adjusters may use pressure to convince a person to provide a statement after a car accident.
The reason the insurance company wants a written or recorded statement is to find evidence it can use to deny or undervalue a claim. Comparative fault is often used to undervalue claims.
For instance, an adjuster may ask you what you were doing the morning of the car accident. The question may be framed as a general, friendly conversation. You and the adjuster talk about how busy mornings are with little children and how often you are rushed and run late. You mention that the morning of the accident was one of those days and you were running late.
In a complex car accident claim in which fault may be disputed, admitting you were running late could be an issue. A defense attorney may present a narrative to the jury that you felt rushed the morning of the accident and distracted by your children. Therefore, it is very likely that you were in a hurry and were speeding at the time of the accident. Your speed and distraction both contributed to the cause of the car accident.
Unfortunately, if the jury accepts this narrative, the jury could decide that you were partially to blame for the accident. Depending on the percentage of blame assigned to you, your compensation could be greatly reduced.
Ways that you can protect yourself from claims of contributory fault after a California traffic accident include:
- Do not talk to anyone about the accident at the accident scene except for police officers. Answer the officer’s questions honestly, but without giving your opinion as to fault.
- Avoid saying you are sorry or apologizing in any way for the accident. Saying you are sorry could be misinterpreted as admitting fault for the collision.
- Do not provide a written or recorded statement to an insurance company without speaking with a California personal injury attorney.
- Be cautious of speaking with an insurance company, adjuster, or inspector on the telephone. Your conversation is often recorded, even if you are not aware that the company or individual is recording the conversation.
- Do not discuss the accident or your injuries with anyone online, including in social media, by text message, or through email. Avoid using social media and posting online until your car accident claim is settled.
As soon as possible, contact our California car accident attorney for a free case review. Our attorney can provide additional steps that you need to take right now to protect your legal rights.
Let Our Legal Team Handle Your Accident Claim for You
Our legal team handles all aspects of your car accident claim so that you do not need to deal with an insurance company or adjuster. We investigate the traffic accident to gather evidence proving fault and liability. Our team helps you gather evidence proving your financial losses and damages. We work closely with your medical team to obtain accurate evidence regarding the type and severity of your car accident injuries.
When you complete medical treatment, our attorney calculates the maximum value of your personal injury claim. We prepare a detailed demand settlement package for the insurance provider and negotiate a fair settlement for your claim. If necessary, we file a personal injury lawsuit if the insurance company is guilty of engaging in bad faith insurance practices or refuses to negotiate a fair settlement.
Contact The Lawyers of The Thompson Law Office for a Free Case Review
Being injured in a car accident is stressful. You may suffer significant financial losses and expenses related to the crash. You may also endure severe physical pain and mental anguish. You deserve compensation for all your injuries, damages, and losses.
Sadly, some insurance providers are more interested in their profits than in fairness. They are more concerned with protecting their bottom line instead of paying fair compensation to accident victims.
If you are being blamed for a car accident that you did not cause, you need help. You need an experienced personal injury lawyer in California to stand up for your legal rights and protect your best interests.
Contact our office to schedule a free consultation with a California car accident attorney by calling 1-650-513-6111.