In the world of civil litigation, very small variations in the facts of a case can massively alter the outcome of an injury or wrongful death lawsuit. That's why it is crucial to retain an experienced Santa Barbara car accident lawyer as soon as possible. A skillful legal advocate will take steps to ensure that the crash scene evidence is properly preserved and that the scene is fully investigated. These steps are vital because this evidence and these investigations are the keys to determining which driver did what, the degree to which each driver was negligent (and potentially legally liable) and in turn, to obtaining a clearer insight into how much your case might be worth.
A fatal accident in Northern California provides a sad but important example of what we mean.
A little before 4 a.m., emergency responders received a call about a two-vehicle crash in Yuba City, about 30-35 miles north of Sacramento. According to reports, a southbound Toyota Prius and a northbound Chrysler 300 collided head-on "near the centerline of the road." The impact killed the driver of the Toyota. The driver of the Chrysler suffered major injuries.
These early assessments of the nature of the crash leave open many possibilities. Sometimes, a head- on crash is the result of one driver clearly and obviously leaving his/her lane and crossing into a lane of oncoming traffic. This crash does appear to be one of those situations. It is possible the Chrysler driver crossed the centerline, it's possible that the Toyota driver was across the centerline, and it's possible both vehicles were over the line.
The Rules of 'Pure Comparative Negligence' in California
If you lose a loved one in a vehicle collision, one thing to keep in mind is that even if your loved one was partly (or even mostly) at fault, pursuing legal action may still be a helpful way to obtain essential compensation for your family. California is what the law calls a "pure comparative negligence" state. That means that you can possibly receive an award of damages, whether you were 0% to blame, 99% to blame, or somewhere in between.
Take, for example, a head-on crash like the one in Yuba City. Say that the evidence demonstrated that your loved one's vehicle was situated just a few inches over the centerline and that the other driver's vehicle was three feet over the line, resulting in a verdict finding the other driver 80% at fault and your loved one 20% at fault. If the jury also determined that the total damages were $5 million, you would be entitled to a $4 million judgment. Now reverse the roles. In some states, being 80% at fault would mean a judgment for the defense. In California, a scenario where the other driver was 20% to blame could still allow you to recover a $1 million judgment (assuming $5 million in total damages.)
As you can see, variations of just a few feet in the factual determinations about the positions of the vehicles involved in an injury crash can make millions of dollars of difference. That why's you need the right legal team to do the right investigation. The knowledgeable Santa Barbara car accident attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP are to help your family fight for every dollar that the law says you're entitled to receive. Contact us at 805-617-1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation today. The sooner you get that started, the sooner we can begin going to work for you.