Personal injury cases arise whenever one party injures another due to a failure to act with reasonable care in a given situation. Any personal injury case will include unique variables, and it is impossible to predict what any one person’s experience with a personal injury claim will be. Even though every personal injury claim is unique, there are a few common threads in all personal injury claims that plaintiffs must understand.
Every state has specific laws concerning personal injury claims. California’s personal injury statutes are quite clear. Whether you are facing a huge medical bill after a motorcycle accident or simply need help understanding your workers’ comp options, understanding the basics of negligence works under California state laws can be helpful.
Negligence in Personal Injury Claims
Negligence describes a failure to exercise reasonable care in a specific situation. To win a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff and their attorney must prove the defendant in the claim was negligent in some manner that directly caused the plaintiff’s claimed damages. It’s essential to identify the breach of duty of care that took place and provide a complete breakdown of all the damages resulting from the breach.
As you start building your personal injury claim, your attorney should advise you of the factors in your case that may complicate your legal proceedings. In California, two of the most common problems personal injury plaintiffs face are unclear liability among multiple parties and comparative negligence.
What to Expect With Multiple Defendants
It’s not uncommon for more than one party to bear liability for a personal injury plaintiff’s claimed damages. The plaintiff and their attorney must establish that each defendant named in the claim bears some measure of responsibility for the claimed damages. While this may make settlement negotiation more difficult and require more extensive evidence gathering, it typically falls to the court to decide how responsible each named defendant is for the plaintiff’s damages.
Truck accidents can often implicate multiple defendants. For example, if a truck driver operated a commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol and caused an accident, the driver will certainly face liability for the decision to drive while impaired. If the trucking company failed to perform an appropriate background check on the driver and the driver had a history of DUI, the trucking company could face vicarious liability for the accident.
Your personal injury attorney can advise you on how fault will likely reflect upon each defendant in your claim. If you wind up litigating your case and the judge determines that the defendants are all responsible at different levels, the defendants are responsible for the plaintiff’s compensation in appropriate percentages. During settlement negotiations, defendants typically negotiate amongst themselves to determine their fault percentages.
Pure Comparative Negligence in California
Comparative negligence may also become a factor in a California personal injury lawsuit. The term “comparative negligence” refers to situations in which plaintiffs are partially responsible for causing their claimed damages. This frequently happens in car accident claims. A plaintiff files a claim only for the defendant to contest liability and even offer evidence that the plaintiff is partially responsible for the issue in question. Comparative negligence statutes can influence how much a plaintiff wins from a successful personal injury claim.
California upholds a pure comparative negligence statute, meaning a plaintiff may still claim compensation for damages they partially caused with no threshold for denial of an award. Many states follow modified comparative negligence statutes that deny plaintiff awards if a plaintiff’s fault exceeds 50%, but California has no such limit. The plaintiff loses a percentage of the case award equal to their fault percentage. If you bear any measure of fault for the damages you have claimed in a personal injury case, you should be prepared to lose a percentage of the award.
The Importance of Legal Representation
It’s common for personal injury claimants to assume that their cases are so obvious and straightforward that they do not necessarily need legal representation to recover their losses. This is not the case. Attempting to represent your personal injury claim without legal representation is very risky. A procedural error during your proceedings or a missed court filing deadline could completely jeopardize your claim. An experienced attorney can ensure you explore every available avenue of economic recovery in your claim.
The attorneys of Kampf, Schiavone & Associates strive to provide our California clients and prospective clients with as much useful information as possible about California’s personal injury lawsuits. You can find a great deal of additional personal injury information on our website.