In some situations, no single party is at fault in an accident. An accident can be a result of several contributing factors. For example, you may have been injured in a car accident caused by the negligent acts of two drivers. In this case, both drivers are responsible for your injuries. Besides car and auto accidents, compensation for injuries resulting from slip-and-fall accidents or wrongful death cases can also be sought from multiple parties if more than one person is responsible for the accident.
It is vital that you get an experienced California personal injury lawyer who will help you understand the exact nature of your case and how you can get the best possible compensation for your injuries.
How Is Fault Determined When Multiple Parties Are Responsible for My Injuries?
California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means a person is only responsible for paying your damages in proportion to their liability in causing the accident. Therefore, each party in the claim can be found to be partially at fault, including the plaintiff.
For example, if a driver ran a red light and crashed into you, they were at fault. However, if you yourself were speeding, the defendant would argue that if you had been driving at the speed limit, you would not have been at the intersection where you were hit. In this case, you may be found to be partially at fault. Each party’s responsibility must be weighed when awarding compensation in a personal injury claim. To understand what happens in cases in which multiple persons are responsible for injuries caused in an accident, we need to look at the ‘Joint and Several Liability’ doctrine.
What Is Joint and Several Liability in California?
It is a legal concept used in some states, including California, that ensures the injured party gets their due compensation. In California, it applies specifically in cases where more than one party is responsible for the damages caused to the plaintiff, even when one party may have caused a small percentage of the injury. The purpose of this doctrine is to protect injured parties from being unable to collect compensation even when the main party at fault is judgment-proof, poor, or insolvent.
To understand this doctrine further, let us consider the following example:
An employee at a large store was moving boxes using a forklift. In the process, several packages fell and struck a customer who was shopping. In addition, the store had hired a mechanic to fix some balancing issues on the forklift, but the mechanic had done a shoddy job. In this case, the employee, the store, and the mechanic are all responsible. The customer suffered economic and non-economic damages. Whom do they file the lawsuit against?
All three parties were responsible for the injuries suffered by the customer. On the one hand, the employee failed to properly seal off the area where the forklift was being operated. In addition, operating the forklift over the customer was negligent. On the other hand, the store is responsible for the employee and thus is also liable. The store is also responsible for training the employee on safety protocols and is accountable for not providing them. Finally, the mechanic is liable for the poor maintenance of the forklift that affected its functioning. The customer can name the employee, the store, and the mechanic in their claim.
Suppose the jury determines the employee is 60% responsible, the store is 30% responsible, and the mechanic is 10% responsible. The customer suffered both economic and non-economic damages. In such a case, if the employee and the mechanic cannot pay for their portion of damages, joint and several liability comes into play. In California, the general rule is that joint liability applies to economic damages, while several liability applies to non-economic damages. Let us begin by identifying these damages and how they can be compensated.
This is any out-of-pocket expenses the injured party has spent or will spend in the future. Monetary damages can be proved using receipts, billing records, invoices, and repair estimates. Economic damages include, but are not limited to:
- Actual medical costs incurred.
- Future medical expenses.
- Rehabilitation and other treatment costs.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future wages.
- Property damage.
The injured party can recover the total amount awarded from one of the parties, despite the fault percentages. This is especially important if the other defendant(s) is/are judgment-proof, poor, or insolvent. In our scenario, the customer will collect the entirety of the economic damages from the store (the one party with assets). The store will be responsible for recouping money from the other defendants.
These are non-monetary losses incurred by the injured party or their loved ones, for example, inconvenience, pain and suffering, physical impairment, emotional distress, and loss of consortium, among others. Each defendant will be held liable only for the amount of non-economic damages corresponding to their fault percentage. In our scenario, the customer can recover 10% of their non-economic damages from the mechanic and the remaining 90% from the store, as the store is responsible for their employee’s actions.
California does not place caps on non-economic damages payable in personal injury cases. However, the exception lies with medical malpractice cases with a current cap of $250,000 for pain and suffering.
Speak With an Experienced California Personal Injury Lawyer at Younglove Law Group
Accidents can be emotionally traumatizing and financially devastating. Whether it is an auto accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident, or any other form of accident, you deserve compensation for your injuries.
If you or your loved one have suffered personal injuries or non-economic damages due to the negligent acts of others, speak to the experienced personal injury lawyers in Newport Beach at Younglove Law Group. Our award-winning and compassionate legal team are fierce advocates for our clients and are determined to pursue fair, maximum compensation for you and your loved ones. Call us today for a complimentary consultation at (949) 691-3660, or fill out our contact form.