Car Accident Law

Partly at Fault for a Car Accident?

Key Takeaways

  • The person who caused the car accident is usually responsible for paying for the damages, but this can vary depending on state laws.
  • If both drivers are at fault, they may share the blame and the costs, which is determined by their percentage of fault.
  • Even if you are partly at fault in an accident, you might still be able to get some money to cover your damages, but it could be less than if you were not at fault at all.

After a car accident, the stress and heat of the moment can lead to disagreements about who was responsible. Different drivers have very different views on who was the at-fault driver and will be liable for damages in a personal injury claim. But the law may make a different decision about who is at fault.

Fault and liability are different depending on state laws. If you have questions about who is responsible for a car crash, talk to a car accident lawyer where you live for legal advice.

Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident?

“At fault” refers to the person mainly responsible for causing the accident. It is a legal term in personal injury law. Most states follow at-fault party liability for car accident claims. This means the driver responsible for causing the accident is financially liable for damages. But in no-fault states and states with personal injury protection (PIP), the driver’s own insurance usually pays for the damages.

The driver at fault for the accident must be determined when it comes to car insurance claims. Auto insurance adjusters try to figure out who is liable so they can reimburse or charge the right driver.

Fault is not always easy to decide. In some cases, dangerous road conditions or a defective vehicle caused the accident and was no one’s fault. But in other cases, even if one driver is to blame for the accident, the other driver may have some fault.

One Party To Blame Is At Fault

Working out who was to blame for some auto accidents will be easy. When a person has broken a traffic law, deducing that they have caused the resulting accident is not difficult. For example, they might collide with another vehicle after running a red light.

Some accident types, including rear-end collisions and left-turn accidents, are straightforward when it comes to who to blame. They are generally assumed to have been caused by one driver, and the resulting property damage will be evidence of their negligence.

Shared Blame and Comparative Fault

Blame for many vehicle accidents can be shared. Each driver has some degree of fault. Both drivers’ conduct may be negligent, and the combination resulted in a crash. It may be up to the insurance company, a judge, or the jury to determine who was at fault and their percentage of fault. Different states have different approaches for shared fault and when accident victims can recover compensation.

Example of a Shared Fault Car Accident

Two cars are approaching an intersection from opposite directions. One driver is texting while driving and doesn’t notice the stop sign. The other driver is in a hurry and doesn’t see coming cross traffic and decides to roll through the stop sign. The drivers collide, and each blames the other.

A jury finds that both drivers are 50% at fault for the accident. They share equal blame. This can limit how much either driver can recover in a personal injury case.

Determining who is at fault involves determining how much each party’s negligence contributed to the accident. The circumstances of the accident determine this. It also reviews the versions of the crash that both parties have told. It could also include considering whether factors such as traffic or weather conditions have played a role

Pure Contributory Negligence

Different states have different ways of approaching negligence. Only a few states use pure contributory negligence. This can produce unfair results when the injured party has partial fault for the accident. With contributory negligence, the injured party cannot claim any damages if they are remotely at fault for the accident.

For example, a driver is hit by a driver who runs a red light. But the injury victim in the other car needed new brakes, which may have contributed to the accident. If the jury finds the driver who ran the light was 99% responsible and the driver with old brakes was 1% responsible, the driver could not recover anything for their injuries.

Comparative Fault

Most states use some form of comparative fault. This doesn’t stop the person at fault from claiming money but does limit how much they can recover. Comparative fault will reduce a driver’s compensation based on their degree of fault. States are further divided based on pure comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence.

With pure comparative negligence, either driver could recover damages based on their degree of fault. For example, if a person is 80% at fault for a car accident case and has $100,000 in damages, they could recover 20%, or $20,000.

Other states have a modified lower limit of comparative fault, generally based on 50% or 51% of fault. In a 50% comparative negligence state, the car accident victim cannot collect damages if they are 50% or more at fault. In other states, the motorist cannot collect any damages if they are more than 51% or more at fault.

If one driver’s medical expenses are $10,000, in a 50% comparative negligence state, the driver could not collect any damages. In a 51% state, the driver could collect $5,000 in damages.

What To Do if You Are Partly Responsible for an Accident?

Many drivers regularly bend the rules when driving, like going too fast, not signaling a lane change, or not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. Even minor violations may mean you are partly at fault for an accident.

Fault and liability can determine how much you can recover in medical bills. Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about your legal options after a car accident. You may still have the option to recover compensation, even if you are partly at fault.

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