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After a car accident, the stress and heat of the moment often leads quickly to disagreements about who was responsible. Different drivers have very different views on who was at fault, both pointing the finger at the other because they believe their own driving was beyond criticism.
When it comes to car insurance and compensation claims, however, there needs to be a decision on who was at fault. This leads to the question asked by many – am I still able to claim when I was partly at fault for the car accident?
For some accidents, working out who was to blame will be easy. When a person has broken a traffic law, say by colliding with another vehicle after running a red light, for example, it is not difficult to deduce that they have caused the resulting accident.
Some accident types – including rear-end collisions and left-turn accidents – are also generally straightforward when it comes to apportioning blame. They are assumed to have been caused by one driver, and the resulting damage will be evidence of their negligence.
The blame for many accidents is often shared. Both drivers’ conduct will have been - to an extent - negligent, and the combination will have resulted in a crash. For example, one person may have been distracted by their phone, while the other was talking to their passenger. When this is the case, any insurance claim will be based on working out each party’s negligence.
Working out who is at fault involves figuring out how far each party’s negligence contributed to the accident. This will be based on all the circumstances of the accident and the versions of the incident that both parties have told. It could include considering whether factors such as traffic or weather conditions have played a role. An insurance company will work to produce a calculation on how far – as a percentage – each party was at fault for the accident.
Different states have different ways to approach negligence. A few apply a concept of “contributory negligence” where a party is unable to claim any damages if they are remotely at fault for the accident. This means that a person who is even one percent responsible for an accident will not be able to claim anything.
Most states use some form of what is called “comparative fault”, which doesn’t stop a person at fault from claiming, but does hold them accountable as part of the accident’s cause. This will reduce a person’s ability to claim full damages by the percentage they are at fault for the accident. For example, if a person is found to be 40 percent at fault for a car accident, their damages will be reduced by 40 percent.
Some states have set a lower limit of comparative fault – so, for example, some states say that you are barred from claiming damages if you are more than 51 percent at fault for the accident.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified auto accident lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local auto accident attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.