Many car accident cases are not black and white. It is not always easy to identify who was at fault or what caused the accident. In some cases, both drivers could share fault for the auto collision. In others, one party may be solely at fault. If you strike a vehicle that someone illegally parked in California, you could both share fault – you for hitting the car and the other driver for parking illegally. This does not, however, mean you automatically forfeit the right to file a claim or seek compensation.
Driver Duties of Care
All drivers have the duty to act in a way that upholds general duties of care to other drivers. It is negligent to fail to exercise a reasonable degree of care. Texting and driving, speeding, drunk driving, and parking illegally are examples of driver negligence. Breaking any roadway rule is also negligence. If a person parks illegally, it means the driver failed to follow regulations and traffic laws. Thus, the parker negligently put his or her vehicle in danger. The driver will therefore at least share some of the fault if someone else strikes the illegally parked vehicle.
The other driver, however, also has certain duties – including a duty to drive diligently to avoid collisions. The driver must pay attention to the road, drive at a reasonable speed, and prepare to stop unexpectedly. Hitting a parked car, even if someone illegally parked it, is negligence if a reasonable and prudent driver would have avoided the collision. Thus, if someone hits a car that is illegally parked, both parties could share fault for the damages.
Comparative Fault Laws in California
California is a pure comparative fault state. Both parties may share fault for an auto accident, and the plaintiff could still recover compensation. Under the state’s pure comparative fault laws, if the courts find the plaintiff partially at fault for an accident – such as for striking the parked car – they will reduce the plaintiff’s recovery award by his or her percentage of fault. For example, if the courts assign 90% of fault to the defendant for illegally parking, but 10% to the plaintiff for negligently striking the parked car, the plaintiff would receive $90,000 of a $100,000 award.
In a modified comparative negligence state, the courts will cap the plaintiff’s ability to earn at a certain percentage of fault (usually between 49% and 51%). In California and other pure comparative fault states, however, no fault cap exists. A plaintiff could be 99% at fault for an accident and still recover 1% compensation. Navigating the state’s pure comparative fault laws may take help from an attorney. A car accident lawyer can work to minimize your degree of fault to maximize your compensation award.
Optimizing your financial recovery after hitting an illegally parked car takes proving that the defendant was more at fault than you were for the collision. An attorney can revisit the scene of the collision, take photographs, and help gather evidence of the other driver’s fault. Then, the attorney can present the case before a judge or jury on your behalf. A convincing argument from an attorney could be what you need to minimize your own fault and obtain greater compensation from the other driver.
Recovering After Striking an Illegally Parked Car
If you hit an illegally parked car in California, remain on the scene and do your best to notify the owner of the vehicle. If you cannot wait on the scene for the owner to return, the law requires you to leave a note in an obvious place on the vehicle with your full name and contact information. You and the other driver will exchange insurance information.
Then, you will call the other driver’s insurance company and he/she will call yours. The insurance companies will conduct their own investigations and may offer settlements according to the stipulations of each policy. If settlement negotiations do not work, hire an attorney to help you take your claim to court.