What Is Contributory Negligence?
This is an extremely strict rule that prevents you from collecting damages from an at fault driver if you have any liability for the collision. The other motorist may have more than 50% of the culpability for causing your collision, but if you also bear a portion of the responsibility, the at fault driver will not be forced to pay your medical and property repair bills. This rule is so severe that, if the authorities give you even 1% of the blame, you cannot collect from the at-fault driver.
The only states that follow this doctrine are Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Alabama and Washington, D.C. This rule is largely seen as unfair to the injured because, even though the injured may have contributed to the cause of the accident, the injuries suffered by the victim could be catastrophic. The victim could have very serious injuries that may be permanent, but if the injured party even receives 1% of the blame, he cannot obtain the help that he will need with his present and future medical bills.
Contributory Negligence in Insurance Law
When a victim of a car accident files a claim against an at fault driver, he or she is seeking monetary compensation for injuries and damages that were sustained. Insurance companies do their best to ensure that they are only paying exactly what they are required to pay and not a penny more. Insurance companies also have lawyers, and their lawyers do everything that they can to make sure that damages are limited to the lowest amount possible.
When they go to court, both attorneys and the judge assign blame for the collision to one or both parties by examining the actions that led to the collision. The court can only determine how much monetary compensation the injured party is entitled to receive after blame is assigned to one or both parties. It is very important to the insurance company that this amount is as low as it can possibly be so that it doesn’t hurt the company’s bottom line.
The case may be that the injured party is not responsible for the accident that led to his or her injuries. In that case, the injured party will receive full compensation. If the court determines that the injured party does have some liability in his or her accident, the amount of compensation will be reduced by that amount.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is much more advantageous to victims if they sustained injuries in the collision and were partially responsible for the crash. By the comparative fault standard, the court will determine your liability in the collision, and your award for damages will be reduced by this amount. For example, if the court finds that you are 40% responsible for the collision that caused your injuries, the court will reduce your award by 40%.
California law uses “pure comparative negligence” in determining the amount you may receive in a collision. This means that it does not matter how negligent you are determined to have been because you can sue the at fault driver for compensation for your injuries. This will be the case even if the at-fault driver’s percentage of negligence is lower than yours.
Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence.
Comparative negligence is used to determine the amount of compensation the injured party will receive based upon the amount of fault each party receives. The court will need to determine each party’s percentage of fault so that the injured party can be awarded the amount that is commensurate with his or her level of fault. Insurance companies calculate these figures in the following manner:
Plaintiff’s proven damages – Percentage of the Defendant’s fault = Plaintiff’s recovery
What Does “Negligence“ Mean?
The rules of the road require everyone to exercise reasonable care to ensure that everyone on the road is safe. This applies to everyone driving a car, riding a bicycle, riding as a passenger and walking on the street. If a person is found to have broken this rule, this person will be determined to be negligent and the cause of his or her own injuries.
Negligence on the injured party’s part includes performing the following actions:
- A passenger interfering with the driver of the vehicle.
- A passenger riding in a car that doesn’t have working headlights.
- A passenger riding with an intoxicated, sleepy or reckless driver.
- A jaywalker or pedestrian who moves unexpectedly.
- A motorist driving above the speed limit.
How Do You Determine Which Party Is Negligent?
The insurance companies, the court and the attorneys will decide which party is the negligent one by following the four points below:
- The at-fault motorist had the responsibility to drive his or her vehicle in a cautious manner.
- The at-fault motorist failed to live up to this responsibility.
- The at-fault motorist’s actions are what caused the collision to occur.
- The collision is the reason that the injured party suffered injuries and monetary damages.
The attorneys conduct investigations into the collision in order to name the responsible party. This includes interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. Drivers have been found to have been engaging in several unsafe activities while driving, and they include the following:
- Neglecting to ensure that the vehicle is in safe condition to drive.
- Tailgating or driving too closely behind the vehicle in front.
- Driving aggressively.
- Driving while tired.
- Driving while intoxicated.
- Driving recklessly.
- Making lane changes without signaling.
- Making illegal turns.
- Failing to yield the right of way.
- Failing to stop at a red light.
- Texting while driving.
The Injured Party’s Negligence Must Contribute to the Accident
It is not enough for you to be found negligent. Your negligence must contribute to the cause of the collision. You may have done something that made your injuries worse, but you cannot be found liable for your injuries for that reason.
How Does the Court Determine Comparative Fault?
If the at fault driver alleges that the injured party was speeding, the jury will be charged with determining how much of the blame the injured party should receive. The jury may decide that the injured party deserves 30% of the blame, so the award would be reduced by that much.
It can be difficult for a jury to come to a conclusion when it is considering the amount of fault that the injured party deserves. In this case, the court can consult prior cases and then compare your case to one that is similar. If the injured party received 20% of the liability for the collision in a similar case, your judge may decide that you deserve to receive a similar percentage of the blame.
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
Car accident claims are usually resolved with intensive negotiations between the injured party and the insurance company. The best plan is to hire an experienced personal injury law firm to represent your interests in this matter. In general, insurance companies are mostly concerned about their profits, and they do everything that they can to deny you the amount of money that you rightfully deserve.
If a police officer came to the scene of your collision, he or she made the first assessment on responsibility for the crash. Sometimes, this assessment is wrong. For example, the police officer may have been unable to interview you at the scene of the accident because you were too injured and needed to be taken to the hospital. The officer would only have had the other party’s version of events to make a decision.
This is one of the best reasons for hiring a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will represent your interests, and he or she will make sure that your version of events is considered. Then, your attorney can determine the true cause of your collision and assign the correct amount of blame to each party.
It also isn’t easy for laypeople to deal with insurance companies. For example, insurance companies are known for stalling so that they can keep from paying you in a timely manner. Insurance companies have the obligation to reply to your claim, and if they do not, this action is considered to be an act of “bad faith.”
California law sets a standard for many other states when it comes to punishing insurance companies for acting in bad faith. For example, if an insurance company’s behavior is especially atrocious, the court may award you punitive damages to discourage the insurance company from acting in the same way in the future.
At JTLegalGroup, our personal injury attorney has the experience needed to make sure that the insurance company and the at-fault driver pay you what you need to pay your medical bills and property repair bills. We are fully prepared to negotiate a fair settlement, but if this isn’t possible, we have the experience necessary to take your case to court. Don’t allow your personal injury to go unpunished. Contact us today.