Does the Role of an Auto Accident Attorney in California Change Based on Who is at Fault?

In many vehicle accidents, liability lies with one particular party or defendant without much debate. In other words, determining who is at fault is fairly clear-cut and the only dispute involves the measure of damages to which the victim is entitled.

There are other cases, however, in which multiple parties are implicated and the case is far less simple. Understanding the nuances of a particular case can be difficult, which is why seeking legal counsel from an auto accident attorney like the those at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen serving the Los Angeles area is important. In these scenarios, an auto accident attorney will likely examine the following possible theories:

Comparative Fault

The California judicial system uses a comparative fault system to determine the monetary compensation awarded to plaintiffs. Under California’s comparative fault law, sometimes referred to as comparative negligence, fault can be divided between all parties involved. This means a defendant can claim comparative negligence to reduce their liability in the case. The plaintiff’s damages are then reduced based on their negligence contributing to the accident. The guiding principle of comparative fault is that no party will be liable for more than their actual percentage of fault.

Fortunately, an individual injured in an automobile collision that they were responsible for to some degree can still recover damages. The judge or jury ultimately decides the percentage of a plaintiff’s fault, and damages are reduced accordingly.

Automobile Product Liability

In a scenario where someone claims that the collision and personal injury that followed was the result of a defective automobile or auto component, a product liability claim can be filed. The claim can be raised against the automobile’s manufacturer, the manufacturer of a part or system, or both. Common defects include problems with:

  • Seat belts
  • Airbags
  • Faulty door latches
  • Roof crush
  • Lack of crashworthiness
  • Brakes or acceleration

Automobile accidents are not always caused by driver error but can also be an issue of a faulty product. In the state of California, the strict liability law typically applies to products with manufacturing or design defects, which helps the plaintiff’s ability to recover damages.

Negligent Repair

For an instance of an automobile accident that occurs as a direct result of poor repairs, a case for negligent repair can be made. Negligent repair is similar to product liability, in that they both result in a faulty product. However, negligent repair specifically relates to failing to provide quality repairs to a vehicle, resulting in an injury.

Roadway Design

Sometimes defective road design or insufficient road maintenance is to blame for causing a preventable automobile collision. Government agencies or municipalities are responsible for trimming trees, filling potholes, installing and maintaining stoplights, removing objects that obstruct the road, and placing warning signs where appropriate. Any individual who has been injured in an automobile accident as a result of poorly maintained roads should consult the Los Angeles-based auto accident attorneys at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen to learn how they can pursue legal action.

Vicarious Liability

When pursuing a negligence claim, there are some instances where vicarious liability may apply. Vicarious liability is a legal principle that dictates that certain parties may be held liable for an injury, even if they did not directly cause it. However, vicarious liability is limited to relationships where a legal connection exists between the parties and the “vicariously liable” party exerts some control over the other’s actions.

For example, an employer is liable if an employee was required to drive as part of their job responsibilities and the employee either caused or was involved in an automobile collision which resulted in personal injury.

The specified relevant relationships include:

  • Employer to employee: Employers can be liable for employee conduct carried out under the scope of employment.
  • Principal to agent: This describes the relationship between a business or individual and someone hired by that business or person to act on their behalf.

Negligent Entrustment

California’s negligent entrustment law holds vehicle owners responsible for the actions of those they entrust with their vehicle. This includes car, truck, or motorcycle owners who permit inexperienced, reckless, or incompetent drivers to use their vehicle with or without their supervision. An incompetent driver can be defined as an individual who is driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, underage under the law, without a driver’s license, experiencing medical conditions that make driving dangerous, or possessing a suspended or revoked license.

In short, the role of an auto accident attorney, specifically in the Los Angeles area, does depend on who is legally determined to be at fault. The situation may follow the scenarios posed above where the fault may be divided among multiple parties directly or indirectly involved, though it isn’t always easy to determine who is legally liable and the extent of each party’s culpability. In these circumstances, the personal injury and automobile accident lawyers at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen can help individuals understand how to pursue the appropriate legal action. First, fill out a free case evaluation form and an associate at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen will reach out about the next steps.