You Still Have A Case: Understanding Partial Fault In Car Accidents
A car accident isn't always simply one person's fault or another. Sometimes, blame and liability for the accident can exist between all parties involved. The main problem with partial fault is it can create a legal tangle. It can also prevent you from receiving the compensation you need for injuries and damages.
All or Nothing
It's easy to believe personal injury lawsuits are "all or nothing" endeavors, but that's inaccurate. Even if you have partial liability in a car accident, it doesn't mean you cannot receive some compensation for medical bills or missed wages.
How Partial Fault is Determined
Different states deal with partial fault in different ways. It's true that in some states, if you have any fault at all, then you cannot receive compensation. In other places, you can receive full compensation if you have a very low percentage of the liability. There are many variances between. These concepts fall under the terms "contributory" and "comparative" negligence.
Contributory negligence – If your own negligence contributed to the accident, then the outcome would be the same as if you were fully liable. That is to say, you will not receive any compensation. Contributing to the accident implies you acted in an unreasonable or negligent way.
As an example, if you make a turn without signaling, and another car crashes into you as you turn, then you would think that person is at fault. You had the right of way, whether you signaled or not. However, not signaling could have been a contributing factor. That gives you some liability, even if it's only the smallest amount.
Some states have "pure" form of this in place. Most others will consider the case based on just how much you contributed. When that happens, it becomes comparative.
Comparative negligence – This approach gives weight to the amount of negligence involved. With comparative negligence cases, the court will total how much a plaintiff would receive, and then subtract an amount equal to the percentage of negligence.
Taking the same example used previously, the court may find you are 5% responsible for the accident. So if your damages come to $5,000, you will only receive $4750.
Why You Need a Car Accident Lawyer
Even knowing how this works, there are still other variables that can come in play. In states with comparative tort cases, you will need all the help you can get just to prove you absolutely did not contribute to the accident. Otherwise, you can end up with nothing at all.
If the case is a comparative one, then you need a car accident attorney who can lower your potential liability as much as possible. In some comparative models, if your percentage goes above a certain amount, you may not receive anything.
No matter what, speak to a dedicated auto accident lawyer like Gibbs and Parnell about your accident and personal injury case. Don't go into the situation on your own, and don't think you do not have a case at all because of your partial fault.