What Happens if I Was Partially at Fault for a Car Accident in California?

Liability in California Car Accidents is Both Simple and Complex

The state of California adopted a pure comparative negligence law in 1975 that is still in effect today. By this law, each driver is financially responsible for their share of fault in a car accident. This may seem simple enough, but the process of proving negligence and comparative fault is complex. 

It takes an experienced attorney like those at Levin & Nalbandyan to navigate a fair process. Nolo has a comprehensive guide on comparative fault with examples. However, as it covers scenarios not applicable in California, we summarize the laws pertaining to LA car accidents below.

What is the Pure Comparative Fault Law in California?

Pure comparative negligence takes into account the fact that car accidents are complex and the actions of both drivers play a role. The determination of comparative fault is determined by a car accident reconstructionist, and compensation is typically paid by insurance companies.

For example, let’s say you were at a yield sign when a speeder was coming from another direction. You merge into traffic and are hit by the speeder. Rather than the speeder being 100% liable for the accident, you share liability because you had a legal obligation to yield to oncoming traffic. In this case, your share of the fault would likely be low. 

How is Fault Determined in California?

For someone to be negligent in a Los Angeles car accident, all of the following must be true:

  • The driver has a duty of care to other drivers on the road.
  • That the driver breached their duty of care through their actions.
  • That this duty of care contributed to the cause of the accident.
  • The accident caused injuries or other financial losses.

A key component of this is that the negligent act must have contributed to the accident. This is called causation, and it is very important. A speeding driver may not share any fault in an accident if the other driver was also speeding and failed to yield the right of way. In this instance, the accident likely would have happened even if the drivers had not been speeding. An experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer can review your case if you’re not sure whether or not you may be partially at fault for a car accident in Los Angeles.

How Does Pure Comparative Fault Impact LA Car Accident Cases?

If you are found to be partially at fault for a car accident in Los Angeles, you will be financially responsible for the portion of injuries and damages that was your fault. 

Here are some fictional examples of pure comparative fault settlements in California:

  • In our first example, the person failing to yield the right of way was partially at fault for the accident even though the other vehicle was speeding. Depending on the facts of the case, it is possible that the driver who failed to yield would be found 30% liable and the speeder 70% liable. The total damages are $100,000. The driver failing to yield would be awarded $70,000, or 70% of the damages, and the speeding driver would be awarded $30,000, or 30% of their damages. 
  • In our second example, both people were speeding but one failed to yield the right of way. Speeding was determined not to be a factor in the accident, so the driver who failed to yield the right of way was 100% responsible for the accident. The other driver receives full compensation for their injuries and financial losses, while the offending driver receives nothing. Their comprehensive insurance, if any, must pay for their damages and injuries.
  • Here is a final example. Let’s say Driver A ran a red light, but Driver B turned left on a yellow arrow. Driver A had a legal requirement to stop, while Driver B had a legal requirement to wait for a green light as they were already stopped at the intersection. Both drivers are equally at fault for the accident, having broken similar laws. Each driver is 50% responsible and must pay half of the other driver’s damages and injuries.

Typically these settlements are paid by insurance companies. However, you can’t always trust the insurance companies to do the right thing. When a comparative fault is not cut and dry, car insurance companies could argue which party is more at fault. This is when you need the assistance of one of our experienced and knowledgeable car accident attorneys

Allow Levin & Nalbandyan to Review Your LA Car Accident Case

Car accidents are very complex, and even though you were part of the accident you may not know all of the facts pertaining to determining fault. It takes experienced car accident reconstructionists to determine comparative negligence, and an experienced car accident attorney to protect your rights.

Our firm has years of experience winning big for our clients, and we’re not afraid to go to trial. Contact us today at (213) 232-4848 for more information or a free review of your LA car accident case.




If your claim has been denied or your attorney has decided to give up, reach out to our firm for a second opinion.