Speak To An Attorney Today 323-524-8994


Understanding Comparative Fault in Los Angeles Personal Injury Cases

Posted by Alan Fassonaki | May 25, 2023

Introduction of Comparative Fault California Personal Injury Cases

In the realm of personal injury law, one fundamental principle is the allocation of fault or responsibility for an accident or injury. In 1975, California adopted the comparative fault system, which significantly impacted the way damages were determined in personal injury cases. California case law played a crucial role in shaping the comparative fault system and its impact on an injured person's damages judgment. This article aims to explore the key aspects of the comparative fault system and its implications based on the influential case law.

Understanding Comparative Fault in Los Angeles Personal Injury Claims

Under the traditional legal approach known as contributory negligence, if an injured person was found even partially at fault for an accident or injury, they were entirely barred from recovering any damages. This strict rule often led to unfair outcomes, leaving injured parties without any recourse, even if they were only marginally responsible for the incident.

In response to the perceived harshness of contributory negligence, several jurisdictions, including California, adopted the comparative fault system. Comparative fault operates under the principle that liability and damages should be apportioned based on the percentage of fault assigned to each party involved in an accident. This approach allows for a fairer distribution of responsibility and ensures that injured parties can still recover damages even if they bear some degree of fault.

Personal Injury Cases in California Shaped the Comparative Fault System

In a seminal case that developed California's comparative fault system a plaintiff was injured while attempting to cross the street outside of a designated crosswalk. The trial court determined that both the plaintiff and the defendant were at fault for the accident. Under the traditional contributory negligence doctrine, the plaintiff would have been completely barred from recovering any damages.

However, California Supreme Court abolished the contributory negligence rule and replaced it with the comparative fault system. The court held that a plaintiff's contributory fault should no longer be a complete bar to recovery but should instead diminish the damages proportionately. This ruling introduced the concept of "pure comparative negligence" in California.

Under pure comparative negligence, the injured party's damages are reduced in proportion to their assigned percentage of fault. Thus, for example, a finding that a plaintiff is 25% at fault for an accident means their damages award would be diminished by 25%. This ensures that even if a plaintiff bears a significant portion of the blame, they can still receive some compensation for the portion of damages that are attributable to other responsible parties.

Implications of the Comparative Fault System in Los Angeles Injury Claims

The adoption of the comparative fault system in California has had significant implications for personal injury cases in California. It promotes fairness and allows injured parties to seek compensation even if they are partially responsible for an accident. Some key implications of the comparative fault system include:

  1. Proportional Liability: Under comparative fault, each party involved in an accident is responsible for their assigned percentage of fault. This principle encourages all parties to take reasonable care and discourages negligence.
  2. Modified Comparative Fault: While California follows the pure comparative negligence doctrine, it is worth noting that some jurisdictions have adopted modified versions. In these systems, an injured party may be barred from recovery if their fault exceeds a certain threshold, usually 50% or 51%.
  3. Consideration of Evidence: Comparative fault requires a careful evaluation of the evidence and the determination of each party's degree of fault. This process involves examining witness testimonies, expert opinions, and other relevant factors to establish an equitable allocation of responsibility.
  4. Impact on Damages: The comparative fault system directly affects the amount of damages an injured party can recover. A higher degree of fault assigned to the injured party results in a proportionate reduction in their damages award.


California personal injury cases in altered the state's prior traditional approach of contributory negligence to apportioning fault and determining damages in personal injury cases. The comparative fault system has contributed to a fairer and more equitable legal recovery system and injured parties can still seek compensation even if they bear some responsibility for an accident. As personal injury law continues to evolve, the principles established in California personal injury cases remain influential in shaping the way comparative fault is applied in various jurisdictions today.

If you have suffered an injury due to the negligence of another party, Fassonaki Law Firm, P.C. and Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, Alan Fassonaki, can assist you in determining liability and help in the recovery of your damages. Call us at 323-524-8994 for a FREE CONSULTATION and learn how we can assist you. 

About the Author

Alan Fassonaki

What inspired me to practice personal injury law? I was 9 and imagining the win. My mother was driving me to my basketball game. My older sister came along to support me. While on the road, I thought about practice and replayed our team's game-plan in my mind. Suddenly, I hea...

Contact Us Today

Fassonaki Law Firm, P.C. is committed to answering your questions about Personal Injury law issues in Los Angeles, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Woodland Hills, West Hills, and the San Fernando Valley.

We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact Us today to schedule an appointment.