When a person slips and falls on another person’s or entity’s property in California, he or she may wish to pursue compensation for damages. Whether the victim’s claim is successful hinges largely on negligence.
Negligence is the basis of any personal injury case. However, the truth is that, in many accident cases, the victim’s own carelessness contributes to the accident, even if the contribution is minor. If parties to a slip and fall case determine that the victim was somewhat at fault, does that mean he or she is out of luck? Not necessarily, thanks to California’s adherence to the pure comparative fault theory.
Understanding pure comparative fault
The theory of pure comparative fault is the most lenient of the three theories — the other two being pure contributory negligence and modified comparative fault. According to FindLaw, California is one of 13 states that follows pure comparative negligence laws.
Per this theory, an injured party may recover compensation for his or her injuries even if the deciding parties determine he or she was 99% at fault. However, the courts or insurers will reduce the victim’s recovery by the assigned level of fault. So, if a victim’s damages total $250,000, and the courts assign him or her 25% fault, he or she may only recover $187,500 — or $250,000 less $62,500.
How insurers determine claimants’ level of carelessness
According to Nolo, when insurers receive slip and fall claims, it is standard protocol with them to follow up with a list of questions regarding the claimants’ conduct leading up to the incident. Though this list of questions may vary depending on the evidence and information plaintiffs provide, some common inquiries adjusters may make are as follows:
- Did the plaintiff have a legitimate reason for being on the property and, more specifically, near the hazard?
- Did the plaintiff engage in any distracting activities prior to the incident that resulted in his or her harms, such as running, jumping or fooling around?
- Did warning signs for the hazard exist that the plaintiff miss due to his or her engagement in distracting activities?
- Would any other careful person have noticed the hazard and avoided it by walking around it or taking another route?
Though California allows plaintiffs to recover even if they contributed to their own injuries, they should bear in mind that a greater percentage of fault equates to less compensation. A skilled lawyer can help to minimize fault and secure the maximum amount of recovery possible.