Car accidents are always an arduous experience. Even the most minor auto accident has the potential to turn into a huge ordeal, especially if personal injury is involved. In any case, almost every automobile accident case will require determining fault. This can be a difficult process–especially since it can be possible for you to be deemed partially liable for the accident as well. Under shared fault rules like contributory or comparative negligence, you may end up “sharing” the fault for your accident with at least one other party.
In order to better illustrate the point, it may be useful for us to conjure up a hypothetical scenario. Imagine you are driving late at night. Low-light conditions make it hard for you to see and you end up accidentally hitting a pedestrian. However, you believe that the accident is not entirely your fault because the pedestrian suddenly and unexpectedly ran into the intersection. In such an incident, both parties could be argued to have contributed to the accident.
However, the specifics of shared fault rules depend on where exactly the car accident occurred. It can be difficult to try to figure all this out by yourself, especially if you do not have full and comprehensive knowledge of the law. Luckily, you do not need to go through this alone. In this blog post, we will give you a brief overview of these fault rules and defenses.
Comparative negligence can be defined as “a tort law analysis which considers the negligence of the victim and which may lead to a reduction of the award against the defendant, proportionate to the contribution of the victim’s negligence.” In other words, it is a system used to allocate fault between involved parties. Under this system, it is possible for a defendant (the one being sued) to raise a partial defense by claiming that the plaintiff (the one filing the case) was also at least partially at fault for the accident. Most states, but not all, have adopted some sort of comparative negligence.
Let us go ahead and consider yet another hypothetical scenario. In this case, you are a driver who has just been hit by another driver while they were making a left turn. This accident has left you with significant injuries, so you decide to sue the other driver for their negligence. However, you were also speeding at the time of the accident. As a result, under a comparative negligence system, you may be deemed 20 percent at fault for the accident for speeding and the other driver may be deemed 80 percent at fault for failing to execute a safe left turn. You will then only receive 80 percent of your total losses. This means that, if your total losses amount to $100,000, you will only receive $80,000.
It is important to know that comparative negligence rules may vary from state to state. However, most states have adopted some form of either pure comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence rules. California, Florida, and New York are some of the bigger adopters of the pure comparative negligence approach. In such jurisdictions, victims are able to recover some form of compensation for their personal injury—regardless of how negligent they may have been for their own accident. This applies even to cases where the plaintiff is deemed to be more at fault for the accident than the defendant.
In comparison, modified comparative negligence states limit the amount a victim may be able to recover if they have been found to exceed a certain degree of fault. The exact degree depends on the state that the accident occurred in. In some states, such as Colorado and Georgia, victims may only be able to recover damages if they have been deemed less at fault for the accident than the defendant. In most cases, this will mean that the plaintiff has been assigned no more than 50 percent of fault. Still, other states, like Illinois and Ohio, will require the plaintiff to be no more than 50 percent at fault for the accident in order to recover anything at all.
Only a few states still use the contributory negligence system. These states are Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Contributory negligence can be defined as “the negligence of a person which, while not being the primary cause of a tort, nevertheless combined with the act or omission of the primary defendant to cause the tort, and without which the tort would not have occurred.”
In other words, the contributory negligence system essentially acts to bar a personal injury victim from recovering any damages if it can be proved that they contributed to their accident in any way. The extent to which they have been deemed at fault is irrelevant–whether the plaintiff has been deemed only 10 percent liable or 50 percent liable, they are not legally entitled to any compensation.
You may be wondering what exactly it means for a personal injury victim to be determined to be negligent during their accident. In short, everyone is bound to a certain duty of care as soon as they get on the road. This applies to drivers, bicyclists, passengers, and pedestrians alike. All this means is that you are legally obligated to execute reasonable care in order to prevent accidents. Failure to do so may have you deemed as acting negligently.
If you are deemed negligent in your auto accident, the defendant can really only use this against you if they are able to prove that this negligence actually directly contributed to the accident. This means that plaintiff negligence cannot be used against them if it worsened their injuries; it is only relevant if it led up to the accident itself.
If you or a loved one have recently been involved in a car accident, 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 someone else’s mistakes. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced nationwide personal injury attorneys. We have helped countless clients successfully resolve their personal injury cases. We can help you too.