How Is Fault Determined in California Personal Injury Cases?

An accident can be a confusing experience. Everything happens very quickly, and it is common to go into shock when you are in a collision. As upsetting as the experience may be, you must take certain steps to when you have had an accident so that you are in compliance with the law and to ensure a smooth experience with your insurance company.

Wait for the police and answer their questions about the accident, but never admit guilt. When you call your insurance company, they are sure to have a lot of questions for you, so make sure to answer them honestly. Always get a copy of the accident report and go over every detail that is included in it.

California is a fault state. That means that the person who caused the accident must pay for the damages. If both parties are somewhat at fault, then each party will be responsible for a certain amount of the damages. This is where things can get a bit tricky. The state has the “comparative negligence rule.” The rule states that your percentage of fault will be deducted from the money you recover. For example, if another car t-boned you because the driver ignored a stop sign, but you were speeding at the time, you may be 10 percent at fault and your damages may be reduced by 10 percent.

There are a few factors that will be taken into consideration when trying to determine who caused an accident.

Accident Reports

Whenever you are in a car accident with injuries, you should report it to the police. When they arrive at the scene, they will make an accident report that will include, When and where the accident took place, the names of the parties involved and a general description of the collision. The officer will also document their opinion of who caused the crash. The report will detail the location of any skid marks, and where the debris fell. In some cases, the officer may arrest one of the drivers, if the driver is inebriated or if the accident is a clear result of reckless driving.

According to California’s rules of evidence, an accident report is considered hearsay and therefore, not usually admissible as evidence in a civil trial. The reasoning behind the rule is that the report will include statements of opinion from witnesses and the drivers involved in the accident. The statements that driver’s and witnesses give on a report are not always factual but based on a person’s perception of what happened at the time. Although police officers may document who they believed caused the accident in a report, law enforcement officers are usually not considered expert witnesses. There are some exceptions to the rule. If the report states that fault was admitted at the accident or one of the drivers was arrested as a result of the accident, this is admissible as evidence.

Weather Conditions

Rain and fog can be major contributors to accidents in California. However, your insurance company may not cover you for weather-related accidents. If someone is driving the speed limit during a rainstorm and has an accident, an insurance adjuster may consider them to be at fault for not adjusting their speed to the circumstances. If a driver decides to drive during foggy conditions, an adjuster may decide that the driver is liable because they chose to drive in hazardous conditions.

Insurance Assessors Reports

Insurance actuaries may work for an insurance company or for a third party hired by the insurance company. The assessor will look at why, where and how the accident happened and determine if the at-fault party’s insurance will cover the damage. If you do not agree with the assessor’s report, you may end up having to sue the insurance company or the driver.

A good personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles is crucial to getting the money you deserve. The attorneys at Bauman Law can help you settle your case and let you move on with your life.

Useful Articles