How Is Fault Attributed After a Car Accident?

How Is Fault Attributed After a Car Accident?

There is a lot of confusion about how fault works in a car accident case. Can you recover money for your damages if you are partially at fault? How will my own mistake or negligence limit my claim? It’s confusing because the answer will vary depending on what state you are in.

In a civil case, fault can be apportioned in several ways depending on the laws and procedures of the jurisdiction in which the case is being heard. Here are some of the different ways fault can be apportioned in a civil case:

  1. Contributory Negligence: This is a legal doctrine that bars a plaintiff from recovering damages if
    they contributed to their own injuries in any way. In jurisdictions that follow this doctrine, if a
    plaintiff is found to have contributed to their own injuries, they will be barred from recovering
    any damages from the defendant. A small minority of states recognize strict contributory
  2. Comparative Negligence: This is a legal doctrine that apportions fault between the plaintiff and the defendant. Under this doctrine, the damages awarded to the plaintiff are reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault attributed to them. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 30% at fault for their injuries, they will only be able to recover 70% of the damages they are seeking. If a person is hurt badly enough, it can be well worth it to pursue even a small percentage of damages such as medical bills, wage loss, and pain and suffering. Twelve states have adopted the pure comparative negligence rule, including Kentucky.
  3. Modified Comparative Negligence: This is a variation of the comparative negligence doctrine that applies a threshold to the plaintiff’s level of fault. Under this doctrine, the plaintiff can only recover damages if their percentage of fault is below a certain threshold, usually 50%. If the plaintiff’s fault exceeds the threshold, they will be barred from recovering any damages. Twelve states have adopted the modified comparative negligence rule, including Tennessee.

It’s important to note that the specific rules regarding fault apportionment in a civil case can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of case being heard. It’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney to understand how the rules in your jurisdiction apply to your specific case.


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