What if I’m partly responsible for causing the accident?

San Mateo County Personal Injury Attorney Reuben Donig: Yes, and I’m going to expand that a little bit. What if you’re partly responsible for either causing the accident or causing your injuries, can you still make a claim? The answer is yes you can still make a claim, but to the extent that it’s determined that you, yourself, are partly at fault, the amount of your entitlement is reduced proportionately. So there are two different kinds of examples, and I’ll try to give them both here. Suppose there’s a collision and neither of you has a stop sign and you both collide in an intersection, and there’s no way of saying that either of you had the right of way. It appears as though both of you should have been more careful. You’re each 50% at fault. If you have, for example, a $100,000 claim, your entitlement in this situation will be $50,000. It’ll reduced by the 50% of your own contributory and comparative negligence.

But there’s another situation where you may have no fault in causing the accident. Suppose you are driving perfectly well, within the speed limit, doing everything correctly, and you’re involved in a car accident but you were not wearing your seat-belt, and you have multiple injuries. You are negligent not in causing the accident, but you’re negligent for not wearing a seat-belt, and to the extent that your injuries are caused by the fact that you weren’t wearing a seat-belt. Had you been wearing a seat-belt you wouldn’t have experienced those injuries. The other side has a very solid argument to make, that your comparative negligence for failing to wear a seat-belt deprives you of the right to make a claim for any of the economic or non-economic damages that are traceable to your injuries that were caused because of your not wearing the seat-belt. So to that extent, your entitlement will be reduced again.

(Attorney Reuben Donig specializes in personal injury law and premises liability, including auto and car accidents in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County. Visit him at www.doniglaw.com if you have a question you’d like to ask).