Sharing the Blame in a Car Accident

Learn how legal theories of negligence affect liability for car accident injuries.

Sharing the Blame in a Car AccidentGiven the high incidence of unsafe behaviors like texting or talking on the phone while driving, not to mention speeding and other traffic violations, it should come as no surprise that car accidents are seldom caused by just one driver’s mistakes. Instead, many drivers’ errors may contribute to some degree to the accident and to the severity of the resulting injuries. In some cases, the individual you might assume is the “victim” of the accident is actually at fault in some way.

Since multiple parties may be at fault for an accident, it can be difficult to figure out if you should pursue a personal injury claim, and, if so, who you should target in your claim. Fortunately, an experienced car accident injury attorney like Fernando D. Vargas can help.

The first step is understanding how different legal theories regarding negligence affect liability in a car accident. The main theories include:

  • Pure Contributory Negligence: This theory states that an individual cannot collect damages for car accident injuries if they were to blame in any way for the accident. Only 5 states (Alaska, Washington DC, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia) follow this theory.
  • Modified Comparative Fault: This legal theory allows individuals to collect damages for their injuries so long as they bear less than half of the responsibility for their accident. “Half” is defined as 50 or 51 percent depending on the state.
  • Pure Comparative Fault: California is a pure comparative fault state, meaning that any injured individual may pursue a car accident injury claim against any liable party. It does not matter if the injured individual is 99 percent liable for the accident; they can still try to pursue compensation from whoever holds that last 1 percent of liability.

How Pure Comparative Fault Affects Your Settlement

In a case involving comparative fault, the defendant is only required to a pay a percentage of the plaintiff’s damages. So, for example if you are suing someone for rear-ending you while speeding, and the jury determines you were 50 percent at fault for your own injures because your brake lights were burnt out, you will only receive 50 percent of the compensation you have asked for if you win the case.

In some cases, this means you will not be able to recover sufficient compensation to make pursuing a claim in court worthwhile. You may still be able to pursue a settlement in negotiations however. To get advice about your best options in your specific case, contact an experienced car accident injury attorney.

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