If you’ve suffered injuries as a result of a motor vehicle crash in California, there is a relative silver lining to your situation that you may not be aware of. There is no question that suffering injury as a result of a crash is traumatic and potentially life-altering. No number of legal “upsides” can make up for what you have gone through. However, it is worth noting that California offers injury victims the broadest legal protections in the nation.
The Contributory Negligence Model
As an experienced car accident attorney – including those who practice at Glotzer & Leib, LLP – can confirm, not all states allow car crash injury victims to hold others who are partially responsible for their harm legally and financially liable for causing that harm.
A small handful of states employ a legal theory known as “pure contributory negligence” regarding injury victims. These states do not allow injury victims to sue for damages if they are even 1% responsible for their own injurious circumstances. As accidents rarely occur in a purely one-sided fashion, this exclusion leaves many car accident victims without any opportunity to seek compensation for the harm that they have suffered.
The Comparative Negligence Model
A majority of states employ a comparative negligence model. Essentially, this approach allows an injury victim to pursue compensation in proportion to the degree of fault assigned to each party. Say, for example, that it has been determined that the value of a victim’s harm is $400,000. The victim has been assigned 25% of the blame, as has the other driver. The remaining 50% of the blame has been assigned to a manufacturer of defective brakes. The victim would be able to pursue $100,000 from the other driver and $200,000 from the manufacturer as a result of these fault-based assignments.
Many states prohibit victims from suing for personal injury damages under the comparative negligence model if the victims are more than 50% to blame for their own harm. Not California. California employs a “pure” model of comparative negligence which does not bar victims from seeking compensation regardless of the degree of fault to which they have been assigned.
If Your Crash Was Work-Related
Note that the issue of fault is not of central concern in workers’ compensation matters. While the personal injury process turns on the issue of fault, workers’ compensation is not a fault-based system. As a result, with a limited number of notable exceptions, workers’ compensation claims adjusters are concerned only with whether an applicant for benefits has suffered work-related physical harm – not with how that harm was sustained.
The three most notable exceptions to this rule involve instigating injurious aggression, sustaining harm while drunk or high, and attempts to defraud the workers’ compensation insurance system. Under these circumstances, an applicant for benefits will be barred from seeking compensation to which they would otherwise be entitled, even if the injurious circumstances in question were totally the applicant’s fault.