Personal Injury Lawyer
Traffic accidents are as prolific as they are devastating, with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) (https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/state-by-state-overview) reporting that 37,133 individuals died in motor vehicle accidents in 2017 alone. The number of injuries sustained in non-fatal accidents is even higher, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that roughly eight people are hospitalized (https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/index.html) for every one death in motor vehicle crashes. Individuals injured in traffic accidents face everything from minor bruises and soft tissue damage to catastrophic injuries that change the trajectory of their lives. They often need financial compensation to help cover the cost of their medical bills.
How is compensation determined in traffic accident cases?
Financial compensation in traffic accident cases is impacted by multiple factors. One of the most important of these is the at-fault party in the accident. The individual responsible for the injuries is also generally the individual who is responsible for making the victims “whole”. Not every case is clear-cut, however, and sometimes all parties involved in the accident bear some level of fault. This is known as “comparative negligence” and it can have a significant impact upon how financial compensation is awarded.
Comparative negligence is the idea that not every accident is caused by the actions of a single driver. Some of them are the result of negligence by all drivers involved. When this happens, each party’s negligence is determined in comparison to the other party. Perhaps Driver A didn’t look as closely as they could have before turning, for example, but Driver B was driving recklessly and far above the speed limit. Had they been driving reasonably, the accident might not have happened at all – and if it still occurred, the injuries would have been far less severe than they were in reality.
In the above situation, let’s say that Driver A is determined to be 20% at fault for the accident while Driver B is 80% responsible. This is comparative negligence/fault. There are a few different forms of comparative negligence to keep in mind.
Pure Contributory Negligence
A few states recognized a rule known as “pure contributory negligence”. Under this regulation, individuals that are even one percent at fault for a traffic accident cannot collect damages. Apply pure contributory negligence to the scenario above, Driver A would not been able receive financial compensation because they were determined to be 20% at fault for the accident. Five states currently follow this rule:
- North Carolina
- The District of Columbia
Pure Comparative Fault
Pure comparative fault is almost the inverse of pure contributory negligence. Instead limiting victim’s ability to collect damages if they are even one percent at fault, pure comparative negligence decrees that drivers even 99% responsible for an accident can pursue damages. The amount of money they can collect, however, is directly impacted by their degree of fault. In the scenario above, Driver B could attempt to collect only 20% of their damages because they were responsible for causing the other 80%.
Modified Comparative Fault
Most states adopt the modified comparative fault rule. This rule has two separate categories. In some states, parties responsible for 50% or more of the accident cannot recover damages. In others, individuals responsible for 51% of the accident cannot recover damages.
For more information about comparative negligence and which version your state utilizes, reach out to an experienced car accident law firm as soon as possible!