Understanding Fault in a Car Accident
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento car accident and personal injury lawyer. Traffic collisions can leave behind devastating injuries. Most accidents are caused by negligence on the part of one of the drivers. However, there are times when both parties are partially at fault for the collision. Understanding how liability is determined and the way it may affect compensation for accident injuries is important, particularly in a comparative fault state such as California.
Understanding Pure Comparative Negligence
Pure comparative negligence, under California Civil Code 1714(a), means that each individual who is responsible for an accident injury because of negligence can be held financially liable. This means that the injured party may place a claim for fair compensation, minus the percentage deemed to be negligence that has been assigned to them. If the injured person was not found to be negligent, the recovery would be 100 percent of the amount awarded. If the injured person was found to be 20 percent negligent, he or she would still be able to recover 80 percent.
Who Determines Fault in a Motor Vehicle Accident?
An insurance adjuster generally determines who is at fault in an accident. Normally, this is based on a collection of evidence, including the police report, witness accounts and physical facts such as tire marks, position of the vehicles and location of the damage. In a case that is complex, such as a multiple vehicle collision, the issue may be taken to court and decided by a jury or judge.
What Constitutes Driver Negligence?
Drivers are expected to use the type of care a normal, law-abiding citizen would choose when on the roadways. Those who do not and are involved in an accident may be considered negligent and cause serious injuries. Some examples of negligent driving are as follows:
- Keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front: Tailgating, or following too closely behind another car, causes accidents if the vehicle in front slows or stops quickly.
- Making an illegal turn: Turning at a corner where it isn’t allowed or making a left when the light has changed can cause a crash.
- Not yielding: Ignoring a yield sign or neglecting to give other drivers the right-of-way where it is expected, such as when making a left turn, endangers the safety of others.
- Driving above the speed limit: Speed limits are in place for a reason. Traveling above the posted speed limit not only imperils others, it also increases the severity of injuries in a crash.
- Failing to signal a turn: One traffic law that is frequently ignored is the requirement to use turn signals. If an accident happens because a turn signal was not used, the driver may be found negligent.
- Driving in a distracted manner: Distracted driving is anything that takes the motorist’s attention away from the road. This may include texting or talking on a cell phone, changing the radio station, eating or drinking and others.
Are Police Reports Always Accurate?
Errors do happen in police reports on different types of accidents and can make a difference in whether a driver is found at fault or not. It can also influence whether an injured individual can claim compensation for a personal injury. Errors in police reports tend to be in one of the following three categories:
- Basic error: These are mistakes in facts such as your address or how your name is spelled.
- Witness accounts: Because witnesses are caught up in the moment of the collision, their accounts of the accident may be inaccurate. For example, a witness might not mention that the driver of the vehicle that struck your car ran a red light.
- Error in transcription: This represents a difference in what you said to the police officer and what was written down. An example would be if the report said your vehicle went into the intersection second where the accident occured, when the car entered first instead.
Sacramento Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento car accident and personal injury lawyer. Those who are injured in motor vehicle accidents have to be able to prove that the other driver was at fault in order to collect fair compensation. I can offer you friendly and free legal advice about your accident when you call me at (916) 921-6400. I can also be reached toll-free at (800) 404-5400.
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