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How Does Fault Affect My Ability to Recover Damages in My Personal Injury Case?

Most personal injury cases are based on a foundation of proving fault or liability. However, what happens if you are partially or completely at fault when it comes to the incident that resulted in your injuries? States have different laws when it comes to fault and compensation, so let’s take a look at California’s law and what fault can mean for your chances of recovering damages.

What is the Law Concerning Fault in California? 

California has a comparative fault law, also sometimes referred to as comparative negligence. This means that injured people who are filing personal injury cases can still obtain compensation even if found to be partially at fault for the accident. 

How does this differ from other states? Other states work under a modified comparative fault doctrine, which disables people from trying to obtain damages if they were found to be 50% or more at fault.

Can I Still Obtain the Complete Amount of Damages if at Fault? 

Though you can still file a personal injury claim for compensation, the amount of fault can come into play when it comes to the damages amount. For example, if you are filing a claim for a compensation amount of $10,000, and are found to be 50% at fault, then the percentage applies to the  compensation amount. 

This means out of the $10,000, you would ultimately receive $5,000. So while you can still receive damages from an incident, the percentage of fault will determine the amount. 

How is My Level of Fault Determined? 

When it comes to proving your degree of fault in a personal injury incident, there is an in-depth look at the evidence presented from both sides. In order for the defendant of the personal injury case to prove you were at some degree of fault, they must be able to show that: 

  • You acted in a negligent matter
  • The negligence on your behalf played a substantial part in causing you harm 

If some degree of fault is proven on your part, the next stage is assessing damages. The only way you would not be able to recover any compensation in the state of California is if you were found to be completely at fault. 

What Evidence Can Be Used to Determine Fault? 

Personal injury cases rely on large amounts of evidence to determine the level of fault between parties. Some of the most common forms of evidence looked at include: 

  • Medical records or statements from medical professionals that treated your injuries and can link them as a result of the incident
  • Photos or videos of the scene of the incident
  • Bills and other records to show the financial losses that were a result of the incident, including loss of wages, repairs, medical care expenses, etc. 
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Police reports

Because many personal injury cases rely heavily on the evidence, such as the examples mentioned above, it is always important to stick around at the scene of the incident, call the police to get a report, and seek medical treatment right away. By having significant evidence, you can further prove liability of the other party. Supporting evidence can also help if there are claims of further liability on your part from the defendant that may not be accurate. 

How Can I Avoid Liability Allegations from the Other Party’s Insurance? 

When it comes to dealing with another party’s insurance, there will often be claims that you were liable for the incident due to one reason or another. Many insurance companies do this in order to try to reduce the amount of damages you receive as much as possible. How can you avoid this? Some steps to take are: 


Never Admit Fault or Apologize at the Scene of the Accident

This is crucial. It is important to keep communication as neutral as possible with the other party, and the sooner you get the proper authorities on the scene the better. By apologizing or admitting fault at the scene of the accident, your words may be used against you when it comes to dealing with insurance companies. 

Do Not Discuss Injuries or the Incident Besides Your Attorney and the Responding Police Officer

In this age of social media, many people are often used to going on a platform to discuss the events of their lives. However, it is absolutely essential you avoid discussing your injuries and/or accident on social media or with anyone besides your personal injury attorney and the responding police officer at the scene. 

Avoid Answering Insurance Questions or Give a Written Statement Before Talking to a Lawyer

Many people often forget that when talking to the other party’s insurance, the conversation is more than likely being recorded. Insurance representatives and adjusters may not always mention this, but it is a common occurrence. Because speaking with insurance adjusters can be an overwhelming or intimidating event, you will feel more reassured speaking with a personal injury attorney beforehand. 

See a Doctor ASAP and Document Everything

One popular claim often used by a liable party’s insurance company is that the injured person failed to seek medical treatment in a timely manner, or failed to follow through with the doctor’s treatment instructions. This is why it is very important to see a medical professional as soon as possible after an incident, even if you don’t feel any pain. Some injuries do not present symptoms until later. Be sure to seek medical treatment and document everything, including taking photos of your injuries, saving medical treatment receipts, etc. 

Even if you are partially at fault, documenting and having the right evidence can keep the other party or parties from attempting to further reduce your compensation. Some degree of fault should not keep you from obtaining the damages you need to cover expenses from medical treatment, loss of wages, disability, lowered quality of life, and any pain or mental anguish that developed due to the incident. 

What Would Be A Good Compensation Amount for Me? 

This question is always best left to a personal injury attorney. However, if you’d like to estimate a good amount to ask for compensation, be sure to take into account medical treatment and other expenses. Some of the most common expenses used to calculate personal injury compensation amounts include: 

  • Surgery
  • Physical therapy
  • Medication 
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Loss of income 
  • Repairs

It is vital to review all your pending and past costs that resulted from the accident, so you can determine what may be a good compensation amount to ask for. Sit down with your lawyer and discuss your costs and future costs, so you are not left asking for less money than you should be reimbursed for.

Should I Consult a Personal Injury Attorney if Partially at Fault? 

Many people involved in personal injury incidents feel that having some degree of fault can disbar them from consulting with a personal injury attorney. However, this could not be further from the truth. Even if you are by some degree at fault for the incident that caused you injuries, you are still entitled to some compensation due to the other party’s negligent or reckless actions. 

Because California is a comparative fault state, injured people partially responsible for an incident can still obtain damages. What matters is presenting the proper evidence of the injury and other damages sustained, as well as proving liability of the other party as well. Sitting down with a personal injury lawyer can help with navigating the legal process and gathering the proper evidence to help build your claim. 

Fault may affect how much compensation you can obtain, but it does not mean you will not be entitled to any form of compensation. If you were involved in a personal injury incident that left you with injuries and expenses as a result of another party’s negligence, you can still file a claim. Consult with a San Diego personal injury attorney to learn more!


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