Unfortunately, auto accidents are a sometimes unavoidable fact of life. You can do everything right, but you cannot control the actions of other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 90 people die in the U.S. from crashes every day. The country saw over 32,000 crash deaths in the year 2013 alone.
Fortunately, these rates have been decreasing. Still, there is a long way for American drivers to go. Almost all car accidents have at least one discernible cause, save for the rare freak accident. In most cases, it is a negligent or reckless driver. The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 crash deaths in the U.S. in 2013 involved drunk driving and that another 1 in 3 involved speeding. Those injured as a result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness may choose to file a personal injury claim against the liable driver to collect both economic and non-economic damages. But do you know how comparative fault can affect the claims process?
Each auto accident claim, like each personal injury claim, has two basic principles: liability and damages. You must be able to prove that (1) the defendant was liable for your accident and (2) the accident was directly responsible for your damages. The burden of proof lies on the plaintiff, the person filing the claim. Otherwise, you will not be eligible to collect any compensation. (After all, it would be unfair for someone to pay for your damages if there is no proof that they were responsible for them.)
However, there are times when more than one party is liable for a car accident. In such cases, determining liability can become much more complicated. For instance, imagine a situation where Car A and Car B get into a collision. If it is clear that Car A was speeding, then Car B may choose to file a claim on the basis that the speeding caused the accident. However, there is suddenly proof that the driver of Car B was texting and driving at the time of impact. Now, it will probably be more difficult to determine liability. Generally, in cases like these, it will be up to a judge or jury to decide who was most responsible for the accident.
Like many other states, Colorado has its own modified system of comparative fault to deal with cases where more than one party is at fault. More specifically, Colorado law requires the jury to include the following in their verdict:
Furthermore, the law states that any injured party that is at least 50 percent at fault for an auto accident cannot receive any compensation in a claim. To better understand the comparative fault system at work, it may help to call upon another hypothetical situation. Imagine that Car A and Car B were involved in a collision that resulted in $100,000 in damages. The jury determines that Car A was 40 percent at fault for the accident and that Car B was at fault for the remaining 60 percent. Both drivers will have their awarded damages reduced accordingly, leaving Car A with $60,000. Car A will not be able to recover any additional compensation due to their degree of fault. Car B will not be entitled to any compensation, as they were more than 50 percent responsible for the accident.
It is in your best interest to begin collecting evidence immediately after an auto accident. It is always easier to act proactively than reactively. Take photographs (or even videos) of the accident scene, along with any injuries and property damage you have incurred. Speak to any potential witnesses right away to see if anyone can give you their account of what happened. Make sure to take down their contact information in case you need to talk to them again later. You may even want to speak to nearby business owners to see if they got your accident on their surveillance tapes. You should also call the police to the scene so you can make an accident report. Remember to request a copy of this when you can, as it can prove extraordinarily useful during the claims process.
It is also vitally important to seek out medical attention as soon as possible, even if you do not plan on filing a claim. If you do not, then the opposing party may use this against you. They may claim that you did not go to the doctor because you are exaggerating or even faking your injuries. Plus, many injuries can go unnoticed for some time. Put your health first, and let a doctor ensure that you are okay. Keep copies of all your medical records and expenses, as these are also valuable pieces of evidence.
If you are dealing with any emotional distress after the accident, then you may also want to consider seeing a therapist. Remember that you can collect compensation for non-economic damages, which means you may be able to get your therapist appointments comped. It may be beneficial for you to keep a journal of your emotional and mental state following the accident.
Taking care of a car accident claim can be overwhelming, especially if you are recovering from injuries and property damage. You may be emotionally, physically, and mentally drained by the process. Extra stress is the last thing you need right now. You need someone you can trust in your corner. We at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. You should never have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes. Let us fight for you and get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our trusted nationwide auto accident attorneys.