Car accidents are very common – in Kansas City alone, there have been over 5,000 car accidents in 2021, which is a 12% increase from the previous year. It’s not clear in every case which driver was at fault, so, if you are partially responsible for your car accident, can you still claim damages? A car accident lawyer will be able to help you navigate the complexities of your case so you can be awarded an appropriate settlement for your damages and personal injuries.
Ask a Car Accident Lawyer: Can You Still Claim Damages If You Were Partially at Fault?
For the longest time, common knowledge has said that if you are responsible for a car accident, then you will not be able to claim any damages. But this black and white view doesn’t reflect the reality of how car accidents occur or the legal doctrines adopted by the state of Missouri.
Car accidents are not usually cut-and-dry cases. Although sometimes one driver is definitely at fault for an accident, there are circumstances where both drivers violate the rules of the road and these violations are the cause of the accident. In other words, it’s not always easy to determine who is most at fault or directly responsible for an accident, which is why it’s important to understand that Missouri is a comparative fault state.
What Is Comparative Fault?
You can think of comparative fault as a sliding scale that determines the percentage of liability assigned to each person involved in an accident. The percentage directly correlates to the calculation for damages that can be claimed by the individual. Comparative fault is a legal doctrine that acknowledges the cause for accidents can be caused by both parties. When this legal doctrine is triggered, both sides of the case will have to prove the percentage of liability before a settlement can be reached.
Comparative fault cases are triggered when one driver claims the other driver was responsible for the accident and injuries, even if the first driver has initially been liable for the accident. At this point, both legal teams will have to provide evidence that proves the percentage of fault that should be assigned to each driver. When a judge or jury is convinced, the settlement awarded for damages will reflect the percentage of fault for each driver.
Is Comparative Fault Allowed In All Cases?
In general, this legal doctrine can be applied to all car accident cases. Proving total fault in a car accident case can be challenging, particularly if both drivers have violated the laws of the road. For example, if one driver is speeding or driving recklessly, but the other driver is found to have been driving under the influence, both drivers are partially responsible for a car accident.
Dual responsibility for an accident is much more common than many people believe. It is possible comparative fault can even be applied to cases where private property was damaged in an accident. For instance, if road conditions were unsafe from negligence and a driver was driving recklessly, then both parties may be found partially responsible for the accident. After all, in many cases, some accidents might not happen if certain events don’t line up perfectly.
How Does Comparative Fault Impact Your Settlement?
For most people, the goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to seek compensation for damages related to the accident, including injuries, damages to personal property, and other economic impacts. When comparative fault or contributory negligence is triggered, the total of the settlement is subject to change based on the percentage of fault assigned to you.
If the total award for an accident is $500,000 and you are found to be at least 50% responsible for your accident, then your damages claim will be $250,000. This sliding scale will award the remaining damages to the other driver or insurance company. With this doctrine in play, even those who are found to be mostly responsible for an accident will be able to claim some damages.
Can Either Driver Trigger Comparative Fault?
While either driver can make a claim that the other was responsible for the accident during a trial, it’s most common that the driver who is found to be initially responsible for the accident will trigger a comparative fault. This is a legal strategy that may lower the overall compensation that is owed to the other driver.
If you believe the other driver was partially responsible for your car accident, then advice from a car accident attorney can help you use this legal doctrine to make the outcome of the case fairer. If you want to claim comparative fault in your case, you will need to provide enough evidence to convince the judge and jury. There are several types of evidence that can be used to prove comparative fault, such as photographs, witness testimony, accident forensics, cell phone data, weather and road conditions, and your medical records.
Why Else Should You Ask for Legal Advice?
Even for the most basic car accident, such as a fender bender, it’s important to ask for legal advice from an experienced car accident lawyer. Accurate legal advice will ensure that your case is handled correctly and that you are awarded a settlement that covers all of your damages. For many car accidents, it can be difficult for a layperson to deal with the insurance company and claims made by the other driver. Good legal help is essential.
There are several damages that can be claimed during a car accident case, including medical expenses, personal property damage, lost wages, or pain and suffering reimbursement. Gaining compensation for injuries and medical bills is generally the most common claim, particularly for those who have long-lasting damage, injuries that require significant medical treatment, permanent disability, or loss of life.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
Your legal representative is there to help you file your case, collect evidence, and prove that the other driver was at fault for your accident. A car accident lawyer will also advocate on your behalf to the insurance company so you receive a fair settlement that will cover the cost of repairs and other compensation.
Although the goal may be to settle your car accident claim outside of court, it’s possible that your case will need to be brought in front of a judge and jury. In a comparative fault case, your car accident lawyer will create a timeline and auto accident analysis that will prove the percentage of fault that should be assigned to the other driver. This evidence will be used to convince the judge and jury of who is most at fault for your accident.
Car accidents are fairly common, and whether or not you had a serious accident, it’s possible that your case will be tried through a comparative fault framework. The good news is that you will still be able to claim damages even if you were partially responsible for the car accident. With the help of an expert car accident lawyer, you can more easily prove your case. For more information about how to claim damages for your car accident, please contact Potts Law Firm in Kansas City and Joplin, Missouri today.