In some personal injury cases, determining fault is simple. In others, it can be a more complicated process. If you were injured as the result of an accident for which you were partially responsible, you need to understand comparative fault and how it works. This is especially important if you are pursuing financial recovery after the accident.
Comparative fault means the responsibility for the accident is assigned to each party based on their role in its cause. Insurance companies typically use this method to determine how much of an accident is their policyholder’s responsibility. Coverage is then paid accordingly. In many states, if more than 50% of the responsibility is attributed to the injured party, the at-fault party and their insurer do not have to pay anything.
How Is Fault Determined in a Personal Injury Case?
To pursue a defendant (the at-fault party) after an accident, the plaintiff (the injured party) has to prove they were negligent. The legal components of negligence include:
- Duty of care—the negligent party was required to act responsibly
- Breach of duty—the negligent party failed to act accordingly
- Causation—the accident would not have occurred but for the at-fault party’s actions
- Damages—the accident and your injuries have financial costs
Negligence is usually established with evidence. While max vary based on the type of accident you were involved in, proof of negligence can include:
- Police reports
- Written statements from lay and expert witnesses
- Medical records, bills, prognosis, and treatment plans
- Photos of the accident scene and of your injuries
- Employment, salary history, and other proof of income
The personal injury lawyers who handle your case will handle the evidence collection process. They will also use the evidence to ensure fault is accurately apportioned and to steer your case toward a settlement.
How Is Fault Assigned in Personal Injury Cases?
The fault for an accident is assigned in percentages. Each party’s actions are evaluated to determine how those actions contributed to the accident.
Typically, if either party bears more than 50% of the fault, each becomes responsible for its own financial expenses and losses. The insurance company, a fact finder (a judge or jury), or legal representatives for both sides may weigh in on how fault is apportioned.
How Can I Make Sure the Right Amount of Fault Is Attributed to Me?
On your own, this can be difficult. When you hire a personal injury attorney to represent you, they can investigate your accident and its cause. Your attorney may have access to evidence and reports you might find hard to obtain on your own.
They can also negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company to:
- Ensure comparative fault is accurately assigned
- Determine the value of your recoverable damages
- Negotiate a fair and appropriate monetary settlement
A lawyer can also make sure you do not accept a speedy but inadequate settlement. They will clarify the laws of your state and help you understand your rights.
How Can Comparative Fault Affect a Personal Injury Case?
You could recover damages from the at-fault party even if you partially contributed to your accident. Any financial recovery you receive will be reduced by the percentage of liability assigned to you.
For example, if you would have been entitled to $500,000 in recoverable damages and:
- 20% of comparative fault is attributed to you, your financial award will be reduced accordingly, and you would receive $400,000
- 40%of comparative fault is attributed to you, you would receive $300,000
The lawyer who represents you will clarify the details of any reduction to your financial award. They can also fight to make sure no fault is inaccurately attributed to you.
Do Time Limits Still Apply if Both Parties Are Considered at Fault?
All civil lawsuits are bound by the statute of limitations in their state. If less than half of the fault in an accident is assigned to you, you can still pursue financial recovery within your state’s time frame.
Overlooking, inaccurately interpreting, or missing the filing deadline could prevent you from filing your potential lawsuit at all. It could also bring settlement negotiations to an end.
Various factors can change the statute of limitations in your case — the age of the injured party, the outcome of the accident, and certain actions taken by the defendant. The lawyer who handles your case will explain the applicable filing deadline and make sure it is met.
Call Our Case Evaluation Team Today
If you or someone you love was injured in a negligence-based accident, partial financial liability could be assigned to you. Our personal injury lawyer can explain what comparative fault is and how it works. We will also evaluate your case and ensure fault is accurately attributed.
Find out how by contacting our case evaluation team at D. Miller & Associates, PLLC® today.