I Was Hurt in a California Crash Where I Was Partially at Fault. Can I Still Sue and Recover?

Sometimes, vehicle accidents are the result of the negligence of one driver and one driver alone. Many other times, though, fault in a two (or more) vehicle accident is more complex. One driver may have improperly failed to yield, but the other driver may have been speeding. A front driver may have improperly stopped short, but a rear driver may have been driving while distracted.

So, what do you do if you’re injured in an accident where you were at fault and so was another driver? Does the fact that you were negligent and made mistakes necessarily mean that you cannot recover anything for the harm you suffered? In California, that is definitely not the case! Even if your errors were far-and-away the primary cause for an accident, you can still potentially recover if you can prove that the other driver also was guilty of at least some degree of negligence and that his/her negligence contributed to the crash. If you’ve been hurt in an accident, don’t give up – even if you made some mistakes on the road. Reach out to an experienced San Mateo car accident attorney to find out more about your legal options.

A recent crash in Sacramento County is a clear example of how multiple drivers can potentially be at fault in the same accident. According to a Galt Herald report, the two-vehicle accident tragically left one man dead and several injured. Witnesses indicated that the deceased man, F.G., approached and intersection and began turning left, failing to stop at the intersection’s stop sign. A pickup truck on the intersecting road crashed into F.G.’s sedan.

Witnesses said that the teen driving the pickup was moving at speeds in excess of 80 mph, even though the speed limit was 55. The teen also had passed another vehicle on the two-lane road and had just re-entered his lane when the collision happened. The impact ejected F.G. from his car and onto the road. F.G.’s two passengers suffered major injuries and the teen driver of the truck suffered moderate injuries, according to the report.

Assuming that the witnesses’ description of the actions immediately preceding the crash were correct, there would some degree of fault shared by each of the drivers. F.G. was partially to blame for failing to stop at the stop sign and for failing to yield the right of way (turning left in front of oncoming traffic when it was not clear to do so.) The truck’s driver was negligent for traveling well in excess of the speed limit and, possibly, for executing an unsafe lane change (that could possibly have contributed to the accident.)

The law in some other states in less helpful

So, what does the law do when more than one driver was negligent and at fault? In a few states (none near California,) the law says that, if you were negligent at all and your negligence contributed in any way to your accident, you can recover nothing. That used to be the law in California but hasn’t been the rule here since 1975.

Some states, including neighboring Nevada, have an “it depends” rule. If you were partially at fault, you may be able to recover compensation there, but it depends on what degree of blame you had. If you were less than 50% at fault, you can recover some damages. If you were more than 50% to blame, you can recover nothing in Nevada.

The rule in California: you potentially can recover even if you were 99% at fault

Here in California, the law is even more helpful for people injured in accident where multiple drivers were negligent. California uses a rule called “pure comparative negligence.” What that means is that, if the other driver in your accident was at all to blame for the crash, then you can recover something.

Say, for example, you turn left while your traffic left was red. A driver going straight, and facing a green light, travels through the intersection and crashes into you. Obviously, you’ve made a significant driving error. However, perhaps you and your legal team are able to unearth evidence that the other driver was traveling 10 mph over the speed limit and you also present proof that, had the other not been speeding, he might have been able to stop or steer around you.

Even if the court finds you 90% at fault, you are entitled to receive payment for one-tenth of the total amount of damages. That can still be a substantial amount of compensation and an important help in the aftermath of your injury.

Sometimes, the path to recovering a settlement or an award of damages for your auto accident injuries may be easier than you might have thought at first. Don’t make guesses that, if wrong, can cost you thousands or millions. Get knowledgeable advice from the seasoned professionals. The San Mateo car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have been providing that kind of reliable and effective representation for many years for people hurt in auto accidents. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.