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Do Courts Award Compensation When You Are at Fault?

Courts in various states view fault or negligence differently in a personal injury case. Some states do not award any compensation at all if the plaintiff’s actions contributed to the accident even in the slightest way. This legal view is called pure contributory negligence. Other states compare the fault of each party involved (modified comparative negligence) and award compensation when the plaintiff is less than 50 or 51 percent at fault. Their courts also reduce the award by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. The remaining states use pure comparative negligence and award compensation to the plaintiff as long as the plaintiff was not 100 percent at fault. Again, these courts reduce compensation based on the plaintiff’s percentage of negligence.

California previously used pure contributory negligence until the state Supreme Court ruled in the case Li v. Yellow Cab Co. In this case, two drivers were involved in a car accident. Li was crossing three lanes of traffic to enter a gas station. The Yellow Cab operator was driving too fast and ran a yellow light before hitting Li’s car. The court determined that both drivers were at fault, but the judge also decided that comparative negligence was preferable to the all-or-nothing doctrine of contributory negligence, because it was fairer from the point of view of logic, practical experience and fundamental justice. Li v. Yellow Cab became a landmark case that set the precedent for awarding damages in negligence cases.

Proving a greater or lesser percentage of negligence in personal injury cases is still a main focus for attorneys, because the amount of damages clients can recover is proportionate to their degree of negligence. By obtaining an experienced law firm to advocate for you in your case, you can improve your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve.

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