Who pays in a 50/50 car accident?
In a personal injury case where both parties are equally at fault for the car accident, each party will be responsible for 50% of the other driver’s damages. California is a fault state, which means that the insurance company of the at-fault driver is responsible for the damages caused by their insured. It also follows the pure comparative negligence system, where a person’s claim for compensation is reduced by the percentage that they are at fault for an accident.
Under these two legal theories, each person who is at fault in a car accident is legally obligated to pay for the other person’s damages. However, the recovery of each driver is reduced by the amount that they are at fault — 50%. A California personal injury attorney can help to establish that the other driver in a car accident case was 50% or more at fault.
This does not necessarily mean that it is a “wash,” because two drivers in a car accident case may have very different damages. One driver may suffer far more serious injuries, requiring much more intensive — and expensive — medical care. Or perhaps one driver has an older vehicle with a low value, while the other drove an expensive sports car. In these situations, 50% of one driver’s damages will likely be much higher than the other driver’s losses.
For example, Joe and Mary are in a car accident where they are equally at fault. Joe walks away from the car accident with just a few bruises, but his car — a 2015 Toyota — is totaled. On the other hand, Mary broke her leg and will be out of work for over a month. She is a doctor and earns a high salary, so her lost wages will be significant. Her 2018 Range Rover sustained some damages, but is still drivable. In this case, Joe may have $20,000 worth of damages, while Mary’s damages could top $100,000. 50% of Joe’s damages is $10,000 — but 50% of Mary’s damages is $50,000. This demonstrates that even when each driver is equally at fault for an accident, they may receive vastly different amounts of compensation.