Category: Understanding Personal Injury

What is Comparative Negligence?

Determining liability after a California car accident can be difficult. Fault and liability are often heavily disputed, requiring the need for thorough investigations into the crash. Why is it so important to find out who is responsible for causing an accident? In California, anyone who contributes to the cause of an accident can be on the hook for damages. If you’ve been injured in a crash, you’ll want to know everyone who can be held financially responsible for your injuries.

Contributory vs. Comparative Fault

There are two primary types of fault: contributory and comparative. Some states embrace the law of contributory fault, which bars anyone who is responsible for an accident from recovering compensation for their injuries. In contributory negligence states, you are only entitled to an award of damages if you played no role in your accident or injury. However, you could still be on the hook for damages if someone else was injured in your accident.

Some states, including California, embrace the rule of comparative fault, which is generally considered to be more lenient and victim-friendly. There are two important things you need to know about comparative fault:

  1. Anyone who contributes to the cause of an accident can be held financially responsible for damages, and
  2. You are not barred from recovering compensation for your injuries if you shoulder some of the blame for your injury.

Apportionment of Fault

What happens when more than one person is responsible for causing your accident and injury? California law explains that responsibility for damages will be apportioned between responsible parties. This basically means that 100 % of your damages will be divided between anyone who caused your accident. In order to determine how much each at-fault party will be responsible for paying, it is necessary to determine their role in causing the accident. The larger their role, the greater their share of responsibility for damages.

Example #1: A, B, and C are involved in a crash at a Los Angeles intersection. An investigation shows that B was texting at the time of the crash, while C attempted to speed through a yellow light. A sustained serious injuries in the crash and has suffered $100,000 in damages. It’s determined that B and C were equally responsible for causing the accident. As a result, B and C will both be responsible for paying half of A’s damages (or $50,000 each).

Example #2: A, B, and C are involved in a Los Angeles car accident. A suffers extensive injuries in the crash and has damages of $100,000. An investigation finds that B was drunk at the time of the crash and C was driving on a suspended license. As a result, B is assigned 90% of the fault, while B assumes the other 10% of the blame. B would be responsible for 90% of A’s damages ($90,000) and B would be responsible for 10% of A’s damages ($10,000).

Fault of Victim

Victims who contribute to their own accident are barred from recovering compensation in states that embrace the rule of contributory negligence. In California, however, a victim is not barred from recovering compensation as long as they share the blame with another person. In other words, victims are only prohibited from recovering damages if they are 100% responsible for their own harm.

While victims are not barred from recovering damages, the amount they can get is reduced by their own degree of fault. This can apply to circumstances that (a) contribute to the accident or (b) aggravate the severity of their injuries. The more responsibility they shoulder, the less they’ll be able to recover.

Example #1: A, B, and C are involved in an accident. A suffers significant injuries in the crash and has damages of $100,000. The investigation finds that A, B, and C were all speeding at the time of the crash. A’s ability to recover compensation will be reduced by her own degree of fault. As a result, she will only be able to get 66.6 percent of her accident-related damages. B and C will share equal responsibility in paying these damages.

Example #2: A and B are involved in an accident, and both suffer extensive injuries in the crash. Each has damages of $100,000. An investigation finds that A is 70% responsible for causing the accident. As a result, A will only be able to recover $30,000 in damages ($100,000 reduced by 70 percent fault) from B. At the same time, B will be able to recover $70,000 in damages ($100,000 reduced by 30 percent fault) from A.

Do You Need More Info?

If you’ve been involved in a car accident you should contact an attorney. Determining fault and liability can be difficult, but an attorney can help to make sure that your case is handled properly. Visit our guide on how to find a good personal injury attorney for more information.

How to Find a Good Personal Injury Attorney California

Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury LawyerAfter an accident, you may need an attorney to help you get the money you deserve.

In this post, San Diego personal injury attorney Curtis Quay shares his tips on choosing a good accident lawyer in California. For the past 15 years, Mr. Quay has successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases. See his suggestions below.

Table of Contents

  1. Search Online
  2. Legal Directories
  3. Online Reviews
  4. California State Bar
  5. What To Ask During the Initial Consultation
  6. Preparing for the Initial Consultation
  7. Understand the Fee Structure
  8. Personality

1. Searching Online

Google

When choosing a personal injury lawyer, start by searching via a search engine like Google.

You can search by using terms like “good personal injury lawyers near me” or “personal injury attorney” followed by your City and State. So if you live in Pasadena, CA, you would simply type, “personal injury attorney Pasadena CA” into the search bar.

This type of search will usually give you a list of attorneys in your area and a list of legal (and non-legal) directories. See more about those below.

 

2. Legal Directories

Avvo

Legal directories are like mini-search engines of their own, but focus only on attorneys. We’ll go over the most popular ones and one non-legal directory, Yelp.

Avvo

Avvo is one of the more popular attorneys directories. Avvo offers a lot of great info including ratings, law school attended, and contact info. More importantly, Avvo tells you if the attorney has ever been disciplined by the California State Bar. Visit Avvo by clicking here.

FindLaw

FindLaw is another popular legal directory that may show up in the search results. FindLaw includes attorney contact info and a bio. FindLaw lacks the robust review system you’ll find in Avvo, but given FindLaw’s search engine placement, we included it in our list. Visit them by clicking here.

Lawyers.com

Lawyers.com is owned by Martindale-Hubble. They’ve been around for years providing info on attorneys. Lawyers.com provides contact info, client reviews, and peer reviews. You can see more by clicking here.

Yelp

Although not a legal directory, Yelp has established itself as a go-to location for those seeking an attorney. Yelp includes contact info, bio, and reviews. Visit Yelp them here.

 

3. Online Reviews

Yelp Reviews

Many of the online directories listed above include personal injury lawyers reviews. When looking at reviews, make sure you don’t just look at the amount of reviews or overall ratings.

Instead, take the time to read the reviews – especially the longer ones. A long review might give you more insight into an attorney.

Another way to find attorney reviews is by using Google Maps. Once you’re there, type “personal injury attorney” and you’ll see results below with reviews.

 

4. California State Bar Page

California State Bar

No attorney search is complete without visiting their profile on the California State Bar website. On this site you’ll see their official contact info, educational background, and further detail on their disciplinary history, if any.

You can lookup a lawyer by clicking here.

 

5. Asking the Right Questions During the Initial Consultation

People with with attorney

Most, if not all, personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation. This is a great time to ask a lot of questions regarding their practice and your case.

Here are a list of questions to ask a personal injury lawyer during the free consultation.

  • How many years have you been practicing?
  • Have you handled my type of case before?
  • Where did you attend law school?
  • Do you exclusively practice personal injury law?
  • How long have you exclusively practiced personal injury law?
  • Have you taken any cases to trial?
  • Have you been disciplined by the California State Bar?
  • Ask for a list of their previous victories – both verdicts and settlements
  • How much do you think my case is worth?

 

6. Be Prepared During Your Initial Consult

Prior to meeting with an attorney, take some time to learn a little about personal injury law in your state. For example, most personal injury attorneys will not take a car accident case which solely resulted in property damage.

Additionally, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with tort law and legal terms like negligence.

 

7. Understand the Fee Structure

Don’t sign a retainer agreement without making sure you understand the fee structure. We’ve all heard personal injury attorneys say, “I get nothing unless you win.” This means they work on a contingency basis. While that my be true, make sure you understand what they get in the even that you do win.

In California, an accident attorney will typically take somewhere between 25% – 40%. However, many attorneys will also require that you pay for any fees incurred throughout the process. Your attorney will charge these fees on top of the percentage. What you’ll want to know is exactly what these fees include. For example, it might include the cost for experts, private investigators, and depositions.

Make sure you don’t get blindsided, as these fees can significantly cut into your award settlement.

 

8. Personality

People meeting with an attorney

The last thing to consider is how well you got a long during the initial consultation. Did you find it easy to speak with the attorney? If not, you might want to consider continuing your search until you find someone who is a good personality fit for you.

 

Did We Miss Anything?

We hope that this guide will help you find a reputable personal injury lawyer in your area. Did we miss something? If so, please comment below.

About the Author: Attorney Curtis Quay has over 15 years experience handling both plaintiff and defendant personal injury claims. Mr. Quay earned his J.D. at prestigious Temple Law School.

 

Reasons Why You Should Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer:

We put together this infographic dealing the benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer after an accident. These reasons include:

  1. Medical Issues: A good attorney will work with a team of experts that can properly evaluate your injuries.
  2. Financial Issues: An attorney will help you with the financial issues that inevitably arise after an accident.
  3. Higher Settlements: An experienced attorney can often help you negotiate higher settlements with the negligent party’s insurance company.

 

Why Should I Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer?

What Is Negligence?

Most personal injury lawsuits are based on the argument that another person’s negligence was the cause of an injury. What exactly is negligence, though? Negligence is defined as “the failure to behave with the level of care” that a reasonable person “would have exercised under the same circumstances.” Put another way, negligence is the failure to use reasonable care and which results in harm to another person. Negligence can be based on someone’s actions or failure to act in a certain situation.

Negligence is made up of four distinct elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. A successful negligence claim requires a plaintiff to prove each element of the offense. According to Sherwin Arzani, a California injury lawyer, “Failing to prove one of these four elements will defeat a claim based on negligence.” Let’s take a closer look at the elements of negligence.

Duty

The first element of negligence requires that the defendant has a duty to the plaintiff to exercise reasonable care and/or act in a specific manner. What is reasonable care? Reasonable care is a subjective standard and is calculated by weighing facts and circumstances relevant to a specific case. Factors that should be of primary consideration in determining whether a person’s conduct lacked reasonable care include:

  1. Reasonable likelihood that conduct will result in harm to another;
  2. Severity of any harm that could result from the conduct; and
  3. The burden on the defendant of taking precautions to eliminate or reduce the risk of harm to others.

When does a duty exist? A person may be encumbered with a duty to exercise reasonable care in many situations. Common situations that may impose a duty include the defendant voluntarily assuming responsibility for protecting a plaintiff from harm; the defendant knowing that his or her conduct could reasonably harm plaintiff; or defendant and plaintiff establish a special relationship. Relationships that may trigger a duty include:

  1. Doctor/patient;
  2. Lawyer/client;
  3. Innkeeper/guest;
  4. Landlord/tenant; and
  5. Business owner/customer.

Breach

The second element of negligence requires that the defendant breaches his or her duty to the plaintiff. A breach occurs when the defendant acted or failed to act to uphold their duty. A breach is determined by asking if a “reasonable person” would have acted in the same way as the defendant under similar circumstances. A breach occurs when a reasonable person would have acted differently.

Causation

The third element of negligence requires that the plaintiff’s injury (or injuries) were caused by the defendant’s behavior. Causation is broken down into two subcategories: actual causation and proximate causation. States have variations and exceptions for determining actual and proximate causation, but the general concept remains the same in each.

What is actual causation? A plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s behavior was the actual cause of his or her injuries. If A was injured in a car accident after B drove through a stop sign and hit her car, A would only need to show that B operated the car that hit her. B’s car hitting A’s car was the actual cause of her injury.

What is proximate causation? is more complicated. Defense attorneys may try to sink a plaintiff’s case by showing that while a defendant’s behavior may have been the actual cause of an accident, it was not the proximate cause. Attorneys use a “but for” test to show proximate causation. A plaintiff must show that “but for” the defendant’s negligence, he or she would not have been injured. The injury to the plaintiff must be a foreseeable risk of the plaintiff’s behavior.

Simply put: the plaintiff’s injury must be a probable and foreseeable risk of the plaintiff’s behavior. For example, if a truck drives into the side of a building, it would be foreseeable that a person inside the building could be injured by the truck or debris. If a window breaks and falls on a person inside the building, it could be said that the truck driver’s negligence was the proximate cause of that person’s injuries. If, after the truck has crashed into the building, a burglar climbs through the wreckage and stabs someone in the building, the driver’s actions will probably not be considered the proximate cause of the subsequent injuries. Being injured by a burglar is not a foreseeable risk of negligently driving a truck into a building.

Damages

The final element of negligence requires that the plaintiff suffer some sort of compensable harm. Simply put, a court must be able to compensate a plaintiff for an injury they sustain. Generally, a physical injury or property damage that caused the plaintiff to suffer monetary losses will satisfy this element.

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If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident because of another person’s negligence you may be entitled to compensation. Finding an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident will help to ensure that your legal rights are protected. For more information, visit Sherwin Arzani’s law firm at https://www.citywidelaw.com.