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Written by: Steven R. Clawson
| Read Time: 3 minutes

When you need to file a personal injury claim in California, you need to first understand California’s negligence liability rules. This applies to car accidents and most other civil claims that hold individuals liable on the basis of negligence.

Different states apply different rules in assessing liability for negligent actions. In contrast to jurisdictions that use contributory negligence, California uses a system of comparative negligence.

Once you understand comparative negligence, you can briefly assess your situation to see if you have a valid civil claim. Remember, if you are ever unsure about your situation, you can always give us a call at Wells Call Injury Lawyers.

We’ll give you a free consultation on your case and let you know how we can help!

How Does Contributory Negligence Work?

Contributory negligence is a much older legal doctrine than comparative negligence. As the name suggests, contributory negligence looks at a specific event and assesses how each party contributes to the damage caused in the incident at hand. 

If an injured party negligently contributes to the event that causes them damage, they cannot recover damages.

Even if the offending party negligently contributes to 90% of the damage, the damaged person who contributes 10% (or even 1%) cannot recover any damages at all. 

The end result of this system is that injured parties are left footing the bill for their injuries unless their hands are entirely clean of negligence. Some say that contributory negligence is an outdated legal doctrine ill-suited to modern times and the complexities of life.

How Does Comparative Negligence Work?

Comparative negligence works similarly to contributory negligence in that it assesses both party’s contribution to a harmful event. Unlike contributory negligence, however, comparative negligence compares the degree of fault of each party

If an injured person negligently contributes to their own injury, comparative negligence looks at the percentage they contributed to the injury at hand.

If an injured party contributes to the harmful event, they can still recover damages. Instead of recovering no damages, however, courts apply their share of liability as a reduction in their final award.

That way injured parties are held to account for their contribution but not left footing the entire bill. 

Modified vs Pure Comparative Negligence

In contrast with other states that employ a modified system of comparative negligence, California uses a system of pure comparative negligence.

In a pure comparative negligence system, an injured party can receive some damages even if they were primarily at fault for their own accident—even if they were 99% at fault, they could collect 1% of their damages from another at-fault party. 

Other comparative negligence systems use a modified system. In a modified comparative negligence system, you can collect damages as an injured party only if your comparative fault comes in below a specific threshold.

The threshold is usually 50% or 51%. In a 51% state, you can collect damages as an injured party only if your negligence contribution is less than 51%. If it is less than 51%, your final award would still see a reduction proportionate to your percentage of fault. 

Wells Call Injury Lawyers Can Help You Assess Negligence

Now you know how a comparative negligence system like California’s works. Still, however, you need to take the next steps to recover the damages you are owed. The team at Wells Call Injury Lawyers can help you do just that.

Our services don’t stop after the first consultation. Instead, we work closely with our clients throughout the entirety of the legal process to fight for the best results possible. You will never have to pay us if we don’t win or settle your claim. 

Our past results speak for themselves. Over nearly 40 years, Wells Call Injury Lawyers has recovered more than $500 million for our clients.

Let us help you get the settlement you deserve. Contact us today for your free consultation!

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