How Do You Determine Fault in a San Diego Car Accident?
Due to the heavy traffic, being involved in a San Diego car accident is a reality waiting to happen for many local drivers. No matter how skilled and responsible one is, there is always the risk of running into a negligent driver. When it happens, after making sure everyone is safe, determining fault becomes the priority.
When at fault for an accident, drivers have a lot to lose. Depending on the circumstances and consequences of the accident, they risk losing their driving privilege, paying fines, higher insurance rates, huge monetary compensations, and even losing their freedom. They will, therefore, avoid assuming blame and even try to cast the blame on the other party.
This leaves the injured party with two options:
- To prove that the driver acted negligently using evidence and testimonies from the accident scene, police reports, video records, and other investigative tools, and their negligent driving caused the damage or injuries incurred;
- To show that the driver broke the law (California Vehicle Code), case in which they become guilty of negligence “per se,” and, implicitly, responsible for any damage or injuries their negligence has caused.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these options and see what they involve.
Determining Fault in a San Diego Car Accident by Proving Negligence
This method of determining fault appeared in California as “common law” tort theory, a theory the courts created over time to allow the injured party to obtain compensation from the party at fault. In time, new laws appeared to regulate negligence and the methods of proving and evaluating it.
According to these laws, in order to prove a driver’s fault for an accident, the injured party has to show that one did not exercise appropriate care while operating the vehicle. The court judges drivers against the standard of a “reasonable person.” All drivers have the duty to operate their vehicles with reasonable care and caution. By failing to do so, they jeopardize themselves and the others on the road.
Thus, someone injured in a San Diego car accident will have to prove that the other driver did not use a reasonable level of caution and that negligent behavior caused the accident and, implicitly, the damages and injuries arising from it.
If the injured driver proves that the other driver didn’t use the required amount of care in operating their vehicle and that negligence was the cause of the resulting injuries, the law entitles the injured party to compensation equal to the damages incurred.
Determining Fault in a San Diego Car Accident by Proving Statute Violation
As mentioned above, the other alternative the injured party has to prove fault is to show that the other driver violated one or several provisions of the California Vehicle Code, and that this led to the accident in question. This way, the other driver will be considered “negligent per se,” or guilty of negligence or failure to act with reasonable caution.
Just like “negligence,” “negligence per se” originates from a “common law” doctrine. Judges designed it as a solution to assign fault in an accident. It later became a statute in the California Evidence Code under Section 669. Section 669 states that failure to exercise due care is presumably when:
- Someone violates a public statute, regulation, or ordinance
- The statute violation leads to property damage, injury, or even death
- The injury or death was the result of an occurrence the violated statute, regulation, or ordinance aimed to prevent
- The owner of the damaged property or the party injured or killed in the accident is part of the class of persons the violated statute, regulation, or ordinance aimed to protect.
In order to defend themselves and fight the accusations of negligence per se, drivers can prove they did what any ordinary person would have done in that situation, namely that they acted with prudence, with no intention of breaking the law.
Otherwise put, if the drivers cannot prove they were not negligent, they will be responsible for the accident and its consequences. Usually, the police officer’s report regarding the accident will mention whether either driver acted negligently and violated the statute. However, the laws in California do not rule out the possibility of both parties being at fault.
Comparative Negligence and Fault in a San Diego Car Accident
Proving one party’s negligence can be just one step to establishing fault for an auto accident. The negligent party may, in turn, prove that the other party acted negligently as well, and their actions caused part of the damage themselves.
For example, one driver could be at fault for not adjusting their speed to the traffic conditions, while the other driver may be at fault for not wearing a seatbelt or talking on the phone when the accident took place. While the former driver caused the accident, the latter created the premises for more severe damages and injuries.
Thus, in order to establish the compensations due in case of a car accident, California courts use comparative negligence. They analyze the facts and evidence, assign a percentage of fault to each party involved, and reduce the damages by the respective percentage.
Let’s say an injured party suffered injuries evaluated at $100,000, and the court determines they are 90% at fault for the accident. The 90% will be reduced from the total amount, and that party will only receive a compensation of $10,000.
How Can a San Diego Car Accident Attorney Help?
In theory, everything sounds fair and clear. However, in the panic and stress following an accident, many drivers miss out on important details. That is where the help of an experienced lawyer becomes invaluable. Lawyers are not directly involved in accidents, so they can analyze facts objectively and notice aspects the parties involved may have missed.
They can record witness statements, take photos from the accident scene, and find clues regarding the negligence of the other party. They can also prevent their clients from making statements that could jeopardize their interests and help prove that they acted with reasonable caution in the given circumstances.
Were you involved in a San Diego car accident? To avoid being found at fault and make sure you receive rightful compensation for the injuries and/or damage you incurred, call 1-800 HURT-NOW or use the contact form to get in touch with one of the best car accident attorneys in California! The first consultation is FREE, so you have nothing to lose.