ClickCease How to Determine Fault in a Car Accident l Personal Injury Lawyer

Ranked #1

Personal Injury Firm

California Car Accident Fault Laws

How to Determine Who’s At-Fault in a California Car Accident

Determining who is at-fault for a car accident can be a bit tricky. There is a difference between who caused the collision and who is legally at-fault. The driver who triggered the incident will have their insurance company pay for injuries and damages done to other parties involved in the car accident.

Normally, the driver who initiated the accident would have to pay for all the damages they caused. However, there is a complicated system of determining fault. There is a chance of having a percentage of the blame distributed to each driver that contributed to any part in causing or failing to avoid the collision — in California, this is known as comparative negligence. This means that there may be different monetary obligations for each party involved.

In general, any driver who violates traffic laws is subject to face consequences for their actions. If one of the drivers is given a citation for running a light or a stop sign – or any other traffic violation, then they will be at-fault and carry the most liability.

An example could be a driver who cuts across several lanes of traffic to make a turn which then causes the cars behind him or her to slam their brakes. One of the drivers may fail to brake in time, thus rear-ending several other vehicles who also made an immediate stop.

While the accident was primarily caused by the negligent driver who decided to cut across traffic, the other driver who failed to make a stop may also share a degree of fault for following too closely.

Determining liability after a car accident in the state of California can be a complex process, especially when multiple parties are involved, but it is generally based on negligence. This means that the negligent driver who caused harm to another driver will typically be held liable for any injuries sustained, as well as the resulting damages.

As it relates to car accidents, negligence is usually some form of careless or reckless behavior. Common examples of driver negligence include:

  • Speeding
  • Driving while under the influence
  • Not paying attention to the road
  • Texting
  • Disobeying traffic laws

Negligent behavior is unacceptable. Every driver has a duty of care while behind the wheel. This means that all drivers are legally responsible for using reasonable care while operating a vehicle. They must also be mindful of pedestrians and road conditions, as well as maintain control of their vehicle.

If you were injured by another driver, you must be able to show that the other party’s negligence directly caused your injuries. The legal standard for negligence in the state of California will consider the following three elements:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care,
  2. The defendant breached his or her duty of care through negligence, and
  3. The defendant’s negligence was the primary cause of the injuries sustained.

Supporting Your Claim

To support your claim, it is best to act immediately after the accident took place. There are various elements to help ensure you are backed up with a sufficient amount of evidence.

Two key actions are to file police reports and insurance claims. Additionally, try to take notes of what happened and get each party’s name, phone number, and comments on the accident. You can get their perspective on what they saw and compare it with what you witnessed to get an overall idea on what may have been the main cause of the accident.

Overall, making an appropriate determination on who is primarily at-fault for the collision includes:

  • Admissions by the drivers.
  • Statements made by witnesses.
  • Reports by police officers.

Available Damages

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact are only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

At West Coast Trial Lawyers, we offer experienced attorneys that are readily available to help you get the justice and the maximum compensation you deserve. If we do not win, you owe us nothing. There is no financial risk when making a free consultation to get your case started. Call us today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] for immediate legal assistance.

Read More About Car Accidents 
Our excellent team of car accident attorneys have created several resources for you to read through. Feel free to browse these topics and read the ones you would like to learn about more.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
Free Consultations /
No Fees Until We Win