In California, like many other states, liability for a vehicle crash really comes down to whether a driver acted negligently and to what extent such actions or inactions contributed to the accident. Unsafe or negligent behavior does not necessarily make someone liable for damages after an accident, and sometimes there are mitigating factors that alter how much someone is at fault. Ultimately, it depends on the specifics of a case and an experienced California vehicle and personal injury lawyer can help you understand your situation.
While dangerous driving habits often contribute to an accident, they may not be a direct cause and therefore do not necessarily establish negligence. For example, driving at excessive speeds and being distracted by texting are both very dangerous habits that can certainly cause a crash with serious consequences. On the other hand, if someone is speeding and another driver swerves suddenly into that person’s vehicle, then it may be hard to prove that the high rate of speed contributed to the cause of the accident.
When trying to prove a civil claim in California, the person making a claim or filing a lawsuit must prove that the other party was negligent, that the negligent party caused damage to person or property, and that the first party’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing that damage. Driving while texting on the phone may mean that a party is negligent, but someone bringing a lawsuit against that person needs to prove that the negligent act is what caused the accident.
It is also worth pointing out that California is a pure comparative fault state when it comes to filing lawsuits such as those involving a vehicle collision. This means that any injured party can collect damages if the other person was at least minimally at fault, though damages are reduced based on how much responsibility each person had for causing the accident. For example, if a driver speeds and hits another person who is texting on the phone, both parties can file against each other. The court may find that they are both partially at fault, since they both acted negligently, and each person can collect damages, which will be reduced based on their percentage of responsibility for causing the crash.
A pattern of negligent behavior, such as numerous speeding tickets, can also be used against a party in a civil lawsuit. This means that safe, careful driving is not only the best way to avoid accidents but can also help minimize liability if a collision does occur. Negligence and liability are complicated subjects, which is why you need an experienced Santa Barbra car accident lawyer to represent you. If you or a loved one has been in a crash, call the Law Office of Renee J. Nordstrand today at (805) 962-2022 to discuss your case.