What if I am partially to blame for my car accident?

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Question:

What if I am partially to blame for my car accident?

Answer:

Except in rear-end collisions and other scenarios where fault is pretty obvious, car accident claims typically involve a lot of finger pointing among the drivers involved in the crash. Even when a driver accepts responsibility at the scene of the accident, his or her car insurance company may later say “not so fast” and try to lay blame elsewhere.

In car accident claims, as with any other kind of personal injury case, when more than one person is legally liable for causing the accident, any fault-finding in a resulting lawsuit will be governed by the contributory and comparative negligence rules that are in place in the state.

The majority of states follow some form of “comparative negligence,” which allows a plaintiff to collect personal injury damages from a defendant even when the plaintiff was partially to blame for the accident. But the plaintiff’s damages award will be reduced by an amount that matches his or her share of the fault. So, let’s say the plaintiff suffered $10,000 in damages after a car accident for which she was deemed 35 percent to blame. The plaintiff would then only be able to collect $6,500 from the defendant (who bears 65 percent of the blame).     

It’s a very different story in the handful of states that follow a “contributory negligence” rule. An injured plaintiff can’t recover anything at all from other at-fault drivers if the plaintiff’s own negligence played any role in causing the accident (even one percent).

Learn more about Contributory and Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases.

by: , J.D.

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