Comparative Fault Adds Insult to Injury in California
Victim May Be Partially At Fault, Limits Liability
Sometimes called highway surfing or skitching, a dangerous trend is emerging in which skateboarders hold on to the back of a moving vehicle while riding a skateboard. As the increasing number of highway surfing accidents demonstrates, this risky behavior is incredibly dangerous. It is also against the law, and it may affect liability and recovery in a lawsuit.
Accident Highlights Danger
In Ojai, California, Cody Doolittle was riding his skateboard while hanging onto the back of his girlfriends Jeep convertible. A preliminary investigation indicated that Doolittles skateboard made contact with the vehicles right wheel as it was going 10 to 15 mph, and Doolittle was thrown onto the road.
Doolittle was not wearing a helmet, and he suffered major head injuries. He was taken to a nearby hospital but died from his injuries during treatment. The Ventura County Sheriffs Department recommended that criminal charges for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter be filed against the driver, and prosecutors may file any charge they deem appropriate based on the police reports.
The California Vehicle Code prohibits holding on to a motor vehicle while skateboarding. It also bans drivers from knowingly allowing someone to hitch a ride on their vehicle. Both skateboarders and drivers involved in highway surfing may face criminal charges. In addition, the driver, and possibly the skateboarder, also may be liable for damages in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Comparative Fault in California
Generally, someone who is injured by the negligent action of another person may have a legal claim against that person for compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. If someones negligence causes another person to die, the family of the person who died may make a legal claim against the other person in a wrongful death lawsuit.
California uses a comparative fault system when analyzing negligence in personal injury and wrongful death cases. This means the victims behavior before or during an accident may impact the liability of the other person as well as the amount of damages the victim or victims family may receive.
Under this system, an injured party may recover damages, but his or her financial recovery may be reduced if he or she was partially at fault for the accident. In a personal injury lawsuit, a judge or jury will determine the percentage of fault allocated to each party, and the amount of damages will then be apportioned according to each partys percentage of fault.
For example, in a car accident involving David and Patty where the jury found that David was 75 percent at fault and the amount of damages was $10,000, David would pay 75 percent of the damages, $7,500, and Patty would pay 25 percent of damages, $2,500. Damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit are similarly apportioned.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney at 408-293-7777 to discuss any legal claims you may have and whether the victims behavior may impact liability and recovery in a lawsuit.