Proving Fault in California: What Car Accident Victims Should Know

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In any personal injury case, the plaintiff likely needs to prove fault in order to receive compensation for their damages. This is particularly true in auto accident cases. If you were in an accident that was not your fault, you will need to work with an experienced attorney to prove your case.

While some laws are uniform across the country, each state has its own legal requirements. It’s important to know the specifics of proving fault in California. Whether you are working with a Marin or Orange County car accident attorney, this guide will break down the details of showing fault in your accident case.

Reporting the accident

The steps you take immediately following your accident will be essential in building a car accident case. In California, you are required to submit a written accident report to the police within 24 hours if it resulted in injury or death of any individual. If you call the police as soon as the accident happens, a law enforcement officer will come to the scene and create the report themselves.

You will also likely need to report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. If the crash resulted in any injuries, death, or more than $750 worth of damage, be sure to report the accident to the DMV within 10 days. You should then check your insurance policy to see when you are required to report the accident to the insurance company.

By carefully sending all the proper reports, you are building a paper trail and documenting the damages of the accident.

Proving negligence

One of the most important factors when proving fault is negligence. In California, the courts use a “reasonable person” standard to determine whether a driver behaved with negligence. You will need to work with a lawyer to show that the other driver did not operate with a reasonable level of caution and care, thus causing your accident. Examples of failing to operate with care include ignoring traffic signals, driving while intoxicated, and failing to maintain their vehicle. The state considers this negligence a breach of duty, and you may receive more compensation by showing that the driver did not fulfil their duty of driving with care.

Proving violation of statute

In addition to proving negligence, California law allows accident plaintiffs to show that the defendant broke state law. Basically, you need to show that the other driver broke a traffic law and caused the accident as a result. If this is the case, the driver will be found to be “negligent per se.” There could be some overlap between proving regular negligence and negligence per se. For example, a driver would have violated California vehicle code by running a red light. If this caused the accident, you may be able to prove violation of statute.

Understanding comparative negligence

When entering an auto accident case in California, it’s essential to understand comparative negligence. In some cases, one party may not be entirely at fault for an accident. This is why some states, including California, employ comparative negligence. This system determines what percentage at fault each driver is for the accident and uses this percentage to determine how much compensation they receive. So, if you were 20 percent responsible for a crash, that percentage would be subtracted from the total amount of damages you would have received. Working with a lawyer can ensure that comparative negligence theory is applied fairly.

Sometimes there is clear fault in an auto accident. Other times, it’s not quite as obvious. This is why it’s essential to have an experienced attorney on your side. By taking the proper steps to prove fault, you can receive the compensation you deserve and find peace of mind after a crash.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.