Previously we discussed proving liability in a typical personal injury case. Here we’ll discuss specifically how to determine fault in a car accident using case law and legal principles specific to traffic accidents. Most injury victims filing lawsuits over car accident negligence are entitled to recover damages for injuries. So this includes the person called a plaintiff. But the plaintiff has the burden to show that the defendant or defendants– the driver that caused the accident was negligent.
Negligence could be established as a violation of the CVC– the California Vehicle Code. But it could be due to the other driver’s behavior falling below the reasonable standard of care. So the plaintiff must prove the other driver failed to use reasonable methods while operating the vehicle.
Examples include Whitford v. Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. (1955) 136 Cal.App.2d 697. Because of that case, the injured party must show the other driver’s negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and damages.
To be found liable for a car wreck, slip, and fall, or any injury claim, the defendant or defendants must have been negligent. Since most of the cases we take involve car accidents, let’s take a look at negligence surrounding the operation, maintenance, or lending of a motor vehicle as an example.
First of all, people must behave reasonably. So there is a social responsibility to act intelligently. Most important for liability to attach is that the violation of your rights caused the personal injury. And these must be damages that can become quantified.
Case law holds that the accident must be the cause of your harm, as seen in Clarke v. Hoek (1985) 174 Cal.App.3d 208; Peter W. v. San Francisco Unified School District (1976) 60 Cal.App.3d 814.) Legal doctrines hold that the cause of the injuries must be the actual and “proximate cause.”
So your wreck must be the “legal cause” of your injuries. If something else injured you, then the defendant is found to be not at fault. Get it?
Furthermore, this section of tort law mandates that the plaintiff shows:
To escape liability, the defendant must prove:
The incident was not a substantial factor, or foreseeable. Or the defendant must prove it was an independent intervening act that caused the plaintiff’s injuries or death.
Example: Mitchell v. Gonzales (1985) 54 Cal.3d 1041; “. . . negligence must be a substantial factor” in causing the plaintiff’s injuries.
Yes, you can! Sometimes two or more acts or failures to act will combine in an accident. Unless the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the wreck, some states would rule in the defendant’s favor. Case dismissed. But in California, we use pure comparative negligence rules. So here, your award is simply reduced based upon your percentage of fault.
For example, A and B are in a car crash. A is following too closely, and rear ends B. But imagine B exits the car in traffic. And then a CHP cruiser runs B over. So B dies. The jury would award the survivors of B for the vehicle damage and whiplash. But B’s estate would need to sue the CHP for the death.
However, getting out of a car in oncoming traffic would mean that B was partially at fault. Hence, under pure comparative negligence principles, the jury may find B 50% at the blame. So if the court awards B 1 million dollars against the CHP, the family would only get $500 thousand dollars. Pure comparative negligence under state law says the plaintiff’s negligence offsets the plaintiff’s financial recovery amounts. The offset is based on the degree of negligence shown by the defendant.
This state has a pure form of comparative negligence – so even if the plaintiff has some fault, they can still recover for what they are not at fault. But your award gets reduced in proportion to degrees of fault, as seen in Li v. Yellow Cab Co. (1975) 13 Cal.3d 804.)
Here Are Some Scenarios That Include Negligence Under California’s Vehicle Laws:
Below, find a list of some typical cases of driver negligence for which damages could be recovered.
Proving your car accident or other personal injury case is not as easy as it seems. You must determine the other driver failed to use reasonable attention/care while operating the vehicle. But some cases are more comfortable to prove than others. The above examples show you the many scenarios possible.
But having a great lawyer significantly increases the chances of a victory for you. Contact Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC to learn more at (213) 596-9642.
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