At Fault Determination in Los Angeles Accident - Adamson Ahdoot

How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident in California?

Fault Determination

Our Injury Lawyers Can Help You Determine Who is At Fault in an Accident

Did you recently suffer a traffic accident? Then, you are probably wondering how much-if any-you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit. The key is to know who was at fault for the accident.

Unlike other “no-fault” states where you can make a claim against your own insurance regardless of who caused the accident, California is an “at-fault” state.

This means that to qualify for compensation, you must prove to your insurance provider, a jury, or a judge that the other driver was at fault–or “negligent” in legal speak. 

Accident report is useful to prove who is at fault.

Unlike other “no-fault” states where you can make a claim against your own insurance regardless of who caused the accident, California is an “at-fault” jurisdiction. To qualify for compensation, you must prove that the other driver was at fault–or “negligent” in legal speak.

Which brings us to the next question: How does one determine fault in a car accident in California? Does full coverage cover at-fault accidents? Here’s where things can get tricky, so let’s take a closer look.

Traffic Accident Statistics


  • Fatalities per 100 million miles traveled were 1.06.


  • Teen (age 16-19) driver fatalities decreased from 95 in 2018 to 83 in 2019.


  • Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased from 1,116 in 2018 to 1,066 in 2019.


  • In 2019, 50% of all drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents who were tested were positive for legal and/or illegal drugs, an increase of 8% from 2018.

Making Sense of California’s Auto Accident Fault Determination Rules

If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a serious accident, it’s natural to want to seek compensation for your pain and suffering. So, the question is: Who’s at fault?

Likewise, there are two ways to prove fault in vehicle accidents in California. The first is to show that the other driver was negligent under common law. The second is to prove statutory negligence, which means that the other party violated the California Vehicle Code or another law. 

Statistics of fault for injuries and deaths in traffic accidents.

Common-Law Negligence

To establish negligence under the rules of common law, you must show:

  • Duty of care: The other driver had a duty to operate their vehicle with reasonable care. Generally, all drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws, drive safely and responsibly, avoid injuring others, and be aware of road conditions. 
  • Breach of duty: The other party failed to operate the vehicle with sufficient care. The standard by which a driver’s conduct is judged is that of the reasonable person, i.e., how would a reasonable person act in the situation? 
  • Causation: The breach of duty was the direct cause of the accident. 

To prove common law negligence, you need to provide evidence such as police reports and witness statements. 

Statutory Negligence 

The second–and somewhat easier–way to establish negligence is to show that the other driver violated the California Vehicle Code or another statute. 

The police report from the accident will usually state whether the driver was in violation of the code. If so, they will assume negligence without further proof. Also referred to as “per se” negligence.

If a driver is negligent per se, it’s up to them to prove they weren’t. Otherwise, the law will hold them responsible for the accident.

Comparative Negligence: What Happens if Both Drivers Are at Fault in an Accident?

Remember when we said earlier that determining fault in a traffic accident can get tricky?  

Here’s what we meant: Under California law, all drivers in an accident may have varying degrees of responsibility for what happened. Therefore, this is called comparative negligence.

What this means is that if the injured party contributes to the accident by being negligent themselves, their compensation could decrease accordingly.

Under California law, all drivers in an accident can have varying degrees of responsibility, and their compensation may be reduced accordingly. For instance, if you suffered $50,000 in hospital bills but were 10% at fault, you will get $45,000 in damages only.

We Can Prove Liability in Your Accident

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a motor vehicle collision, visit our FAQ page. Learn more about how to file a car accident personal injury lawsuit.

The personal injury lawyers at Adamson Ahdoot LLP have more than 100 years of combined legal experience. We are passionate about fighting for the rights of people injured by the negligent actions of others. In addition, we can obtain maximum compensation for accident victims.

Call us today at (800) 310-1606 or submit your inquiry online. Our bilingual law firm is available 24/7.

Get a Free Consultation: (424) 392-7649

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