California Laws on Shared Fault

According to California state laws, you can file a personal injury claim against someone even if you are partially responsible for the incident. But the amount of blame on your shoulders could impact the value of your claim. California laws on shared fault directly affect how much money you receive.

A History of Contributory Negligence

Although California now has laws regarding shared fault, this wasn’t always the case. Years ago, California adhered to contributory negligence. If someone was even slightly responsible for an accident, they could not recover any damages.


That all changed in 1975. In a California Supreme Court case, the court ruled that contributory negligence was not fair. They replaced the law with the current standard of comparative fault.

There are still some states that choose to follow contributory negligence. For instance, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington D.C all follow the law. In these states, victims can only seek compensation if they exhibited no negligence. Even 1% of fault prevents them from seeking damages.

What is Shared Fault?

When there is shared fault in an accident, both parties are responsible for the accident. For instance, one vehicle might rear-end another. If the vehicle in the front was turning but failed to signal, they would be partially to blame for the accident. Therefore, the incident involved shared fault.

California has comparative fault laws that come into play when incidents involve shared fault. In some cases, people refer to the law as comparative negligence. In a personal injury case, comparative fault can play a major role.

In court, a jury will assess the circumstances that led up to the accident. Then, they will assign you with a percentage of fault. The higher the percentage, the more you are to blame. And the higher the percentage, the less money you receive.

What Cases Rely on Comparative Fault?

Many types of personal injury claims rely on shared fault. For instance, car accidents and slip and falls can be impacted by comparative fault. The same is true of product liability and medical malpractice claims.

To find out whether or not your case involves comparative fault, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer. They can evaluate your situation and explain the laws.

How Does Comparative Fault Affect Your Compensation?

As previously mentioned, your percentage of fault affects your compensation. Once a jury or judge determines your percentage of fault, the hard work is done. You receive a percentage of the total compensation. The percentage must equal the percentage of fault assigned to the other party.

For example, the other party could be 60% responsible for your injuries. You could be 40% responsible for them. As a result, you would only receive 60% of the total compensation.

Determining Fault

Often, people have questions about how the court assigns fault in an accident. In California, the process is more simple than you might imagine.

If a jury determines fault, they receive instructions regarding the assignment of fault. They need to consider how the plaintiff was negligent, and whether or not that negligence impacted the injuries. It’s up to an attorney to prove negligence and the connection between negligence and harm.

If the jury is convinced there is shared fault, they divide up the fault. All of the percentages must add up to 100.

If you have questions about the process or want to learn more about your options, contact a Fresno personal injury lawyer. They can tell you more about shared fault in California.

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