After an auto accident, it can very difficult to determine who is at fault in personal injury accidents. The obvious may not always be the actual case in personal injury accidents. And in many cases, both parties may be partially at fault. Determining legal responsibility, often referred to as liability, is the first step in determining who may be responsible to pay for injuries and damages and how much they are responsible for.
Understanding Legal Liability in Personal Injury Accidents
Typically, when an auto accident occurs, at least one party was careless or negligent. In some cases, both parties may have been careless or negligent, however, one of the parties may have been more careful or less liable than the other. Legal liability is often determined by who was the most careless or negligible and that party will be responsible to pay a part or all of the damages suffered by the party that was careful or less careless.
There are many factors in determining legal liability for personal injury accidents. Without going too deep into the legalities, there are things that can affect the decision. These mitigating factors can be complex and that is one of the main reasons anyone involved in a personal injury accident should seek legal counsel immediately. Moreover, if you are an employer and your employee is involved in a personal injury accident, you may in fact be legally responsible for the accident.
Can My Own Carelessness Affect My Claim?
Yes, but even if you were careless and were partly at fault for causing an accident, in many states you may still be able to claim and be compensated at some level. In some cases, a percentage of legal liability will be established and that determines the liability amount that is then paid. Essentially, the parties will be looked upon comparatively (hence why the rule is called comparative negligence) to determine who was at fault and at what percent.
Let’s look at an example. Carl was in an auto accident. He stopped suddenly to avoid hitting a dog in the road. Joe was in the car behind Carl and hit him from behind. Carl’s medical bill and car damages totaled $5000. Since Joe hit Carl, it may seem likely that Joe would be responsible (or Joe’s insurance company) to pay the $5000 since he failed to follow at a distance that allowed him to stop in time.
Seems obvious, right? Not so fast. In this case, the police determined that Carl was driving over the speed limit when the dog ran out in front of him, which made him slam on his brakes. The police report also determined that Joe was going at or below the speed limit.
In this case, Carl was at least partially responsible even though Joe hit Carl. It may be determined that Carl was 20% responsible for the accident, so in this case, Joe or his insurance company would only be responsible for 80% of the damages or $4000. There is no formula or hard-fast rule in determining this type of liability and state laws vary. Consider when you are in an accident, even if you think you may be at fault or partially at fault, you should consult a personal injury attorney who specializes in these types of cases.