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Understanding Comparative Negligence Law in Car Accident Insurance Claims

Every time you get behind the wheel in your car, you assume a duty of care to other motorists on the road. When you breach that duty of care by failing to drive safely and observe traffic rules, you are considered negligent and may become liable for any resulting accidents and damages.

However, if the other driver also contributed to the accident, your degree of liability may be reduced under the legal doctrine of comparative negligence.

It means that the court will determine each driver’s fault percentage and award damages accordingly.

For example, if you are found to be 20 percent at fault for an accident and the other driver is 80 percent at fault, you can only recover up to 80 percent of your total damages from the other driver.

This blog post discusses everything you need to know about comparative negligence. Read on to learn more:

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that apportions liability among multiple parties at fault for an accident.

It allows plaintiffs to recover damages even if they were partially at fault for the accident, as long as their degree of fault is not greater than the defendant’s.

Before the introduction of comparative negligence, states relied on contributory negligence to establish fault in car accident cases. In this case, plaintiffs are completely barred from recovering damages if they were even slightly at fault for the accident.

Most states have adopted some form of comparative negligence, although the rules may differ slightly from one state to another.

How Does Comparative Negligence Work?

Under comparative negligence, the court will determine each driver’s fault percentage and award damages accordingly.

For example, if you are found to be 20 percent at fault for an accident and the other driver is 80 percent at fault, you can only recover up to 80 percent of your total damages from the other driver.

So, if the total damage that occurred as a result of the accident is $10,000, you can only recover up to $8,000 from the other driver.

The comparative negligence doctrine is based on the premise that each driver should be responsible for their own actions and should not be able to shift the blame entirely to the other driver.

How Is Comparative Negligence Determined?

There are two ways that comparative negligence can be determined: The first is by using the “pure” comparative negligence rule, which allows plaintiffs to recover damages even if they were 99 percent at fault for the accident.

The second is using the “modified” comparative negligence rule, which bars plaintiffs from recovering damages if they were more than 50 percent at fault for the accident.

A few states use the contributory negligence rule, which completely bars complainants from recovering any damages if they were even slightly at fault for the accident.

How Does Comparative Negligence Affect Car Accident Insurance Claims?

Comparative negligence can have a significant impact on car accident insurance claims.

If you are involved in an accident, the first thing you should do is notify your insurance company. Your insurance company will then send an adjuster to investigate the accident and determine who was at fault.

If the other driver was entirely at fault for the accident, you will be able to recover the full amount of your damages from their insurance company.

However, if you were even partially at fault for the accident, the comparative negligence doctrine may limit your ability to recover damages.

For example, if you are found to be 30 percent at fault for an accident, you can only recover up to 70 percent of your damages from the other driver’s insurance company.

It’s important to note that most insurance companies will try to minimize their liability by looking for ways to place some of the blame on the policyholder.

This is why it’s important to have an experienced car accident attorney on your side who can help you protect your rights and maximize your chances of recovering the full amount of damages you are entitled to.

How Is Fault Determined After a Car Accident?

Insurance companies typically have the final say when it comes to determining fault after a car accident.

However, there are a few things that you can do to help improve your chances of being found not at fault for the accident.

First, ensure you exchange information with the other driver after the accident. This should include your name, contact information, insurance company, and policy number.

If there were any witnesses to the accident, get their names and contact information as well.

Second, take pictures of the accident scene, including the damage to both vehicles. Taking pictures of any injuries you sustained in the accident is also a good idea.

Third, call the police and make sure they come to the accident scene. The police will file a report that can be used as evidence in your case.

Fourth, don’t say anything to the other driver or their insurance company that could be used against you.

For example, admitting that you were even partially at fault for the accident could result in you being found completely at fault and denied any compensation for your damages.

Finally, contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will protect your rights and help you build a strong case to support your claim for damages.

Summary

If you are involved in a car accident, it is important to understand comparative negligence law. This law will determine who is at fault and how your insurance claim will be processed.

Comparative negligence takes all factors into account when determining liability for an accident. If you are found to be partially at fault, you may still be able to recover damages, but the amount you receive may be reduced.

Be sure to contact an attorney if you have been involved in a car accident and need help filing an insurance claim.