Who Is at Fault for My Personal Injury?
California law allows injured people to seek compensation when someone else is responsible for the harm they suffered. Victims must prove the other party is liable for their injuries to win a case. Sadly, far too many individuals go up against stubborn insurance companies that make a profit by keeping their payouts low ― no matter how deserving the claimant may be.
Did you suffer an injury in a Southern California accident? You need a lawyer with experience establishing liability in personal injury cases in Pasadena. Reach out to the Law Offices of Pius Joseph today. Our tough legal team tackles complex injury claims for clients hurt in a wide range of accidents, including motor vehicle collisions, premises liability accidents, defective product cases, wrongful death, and more.
Call or contact us today for a free consultation with a Pasadena personal injury lawyer.
Key Things to Know About At-Fault Accidents in Pasadena
An at-fault accident is just what it sounds like ― an accident caused by someone else’s careless acts. The legal term for this type of carelessness is negligence.
Here’s what you need to know to obtain compensation for an at-fault accident in California:
- You must prove the other party was negligent. The burden will be on you, the victim, to show that the responsible parties had a duty to keep you safe and failed to live up to that obligation. For example, motorists have a duty to drive safely to prevent hitting others. A nursing home must keep its residents safe. Property owners are duty-bound to ensure that their premises are safe from reasonable hazards.
- Negligence can arise from a reckless action or a failure to act to prevent harm. A surgeon who operates on the wrong body part clearly performs a negligent action. But a doctor could also be negligent by omission ― for instance, by not performing a neurological exam after learning a patient hit their head in an accident.
- Compensation is possible even if you are partly at fault for an accident. California is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning injured individuals can recover partial compensation even if they are 99 percent at fault for an accident.
How is Fault Determined in a Personal Injury Claim?
The process of determining fault starts with a thorough investigation of the accident. Your personal injury lawyer will collect evidence that identifies all potentially liable parties. Liability may be clear in “open and shut” cases like a two-car accident, where one or both drivers are to blame. But other personal injury claims could involve multiple defendants, such as a truck accident where the trucker, truck company, and others may have played a role in causing the wreck. A thorough investigation can uncover everyone who should be held accountable.
Examples of evidence that can help determine fault include:
- Police accident reports: Though police reports are not admissible in California courts, they can provide an officer’s initial assessment of fault and pinpoint whether anybody at the scene admitted responsibility for the accident.
- Witness statements: Eyewitness testimony is valuable because it provides an unbiased account of what happened. Witnesses have nothing to gain from how the case turns out, so their statements can be compelling.
- Photos or video: Visual documentation of the accident and its aftermath can help lawyers and insurance adjusters determine what happened and who is at fault. When the truth is difficult to uncover, experts like accident reconstruction analysts or forensic investigators may be called upon to shed light on the case.
Who Makes the Liability Determination?
Several parties may make liability determinations. Your personal injury attorney will identify the liable party(s) responsible for your accident after completing their own investigation. At the same time, an insurance adjuster will review the available evidence, laws, and policies to arrive at their own decision regarding fault.
Your case could wrap up fairly quickly if your lawyer and the adjuster agree on liability. It then becomes a matter of entering negotiations and reaching a settlement with the insurance company. But if disputes arise over fault, a judge or jury may need to assign liability after hearing the case in court.
Legal Defenses in Personal Injury Claims
Liability after an accident may seem obvious to you. But insurance companies won’t see it that way. Their adjusters look for every possible legal defense to justify denying or reducing the value of your claim.
Common legal defenses include:
- No duty exists: An at-fault party is only negligent if you can prove they owed a “duty of care” to you. An insurance company could try to deflect your claim by claiming that no duty exists between you and the defendant. For example, California property owners owe no duty to undiscovered trespassers on their land.
- Assumption of risk: Certain activities, like skydiving or bungee jumping, come with inherent risks. It is presumed that a person who participates in these types of activities assumes the risk that injuries are possible. While this could be a successful legal defense in some cases, it would not excuse a skydiving company from liability if it hired untrained pilots or instructors.
- Preexisting condition: Insurers love the preexisting condition argument. Rather than accept liability for an injury, adjusters may comb over a claimant’s medical history to look for any preexisting condition that could explain the injury. Never sign a medical release form without speaking to a personal injury lawyer. You could accidentally give insurers access to your entire medical record, not just the records relevant to the accident.
Contact a Pasadena Personal Injury Attorney Today
You deserve full and fair compensation if you suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence. Let the Law Offices of Pius Joseph help you pursue justice and hold the at-fault parties accountable for their actions. Our respected law firm has a track record of impressive case results, including multi-million-dollar personal injury verdicts and settlements on behalf of injured Californians. Call or contact us today to learn how we can help with your case.