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How does comparative negligence affect a California injury claim?

One minute, you're driving down the road and looking forward to being off for the weekend. The next minute, a delivery van runs a red light and slams into your vehicle from the side so hard that you're thrown from it. You wake up in a hospital bed with permanent injuries to your spine.

It seems pretty clear that the delivery van's driver was at fault for your accident, so you naturally assume that their employer's insurance company will pay up. You're shocked, then, when you find out that the insurer is trying to say bear some responsibility for the crash or the severity of your injuries.

Maybe it was almost dusk at the time of the wreck, but you hadn't put your headlights on yet. If you had, the delivery driver would have seen you. Maybe you weren't wearing your seatbelt for some reason -- and the insurance company says that you wouldn't have been thrown from the car and injured so badly if you'd had it on.

What's happening? It's simple: The insurance company knows that your claim has a lot of value, so they're seeking to minimize what they have to pay as much as they can. To do that, they're looking for ways to assign some part of the blame to you.

This is a common strategy in California cases because the injury laws in this state follow what's known as the "pure comparative negligence" system. Everyone involved in an accident is assigned a percentage of blame for the event. Whatever part of the accident you're ultimately blamed for causing is your responsibility.

If, for example, the court says that wearing your seatbelt would have reduced your injuries by 25%, then whatever the delivery company owes you for the wreck would be reduced by that same amount.

Can you fight back against the insurance company's tactics? Absolutely. An experienced injury attorney can help you.

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