When you’re involved in a traffic accident, showing fault will determine how you’re able to obtain compensation for your injuries and damages. Even if the police investigate the accident and determine that the other party is at fault, they may also find that you’re partly at fault. Knowing what happens when fault has been established will help you understand what potential damages you can claim.
How Is Fault Determined?
Assigning fault in an accident is never easy, but, if one party receives a ticket, that party is usually assigned fault based on the assumption that their violation caused the accident.
In a traffic accident where one vehicle ran a stop sign and hit a car coming from an adjacent street, that driver will be assigned fault in causing the accident. This is because their failure to obey traffic laws established their negligence. This is called breaching their duty of care in legal terms. It’s a concept that assumes the accident wouldn’t have happened if the individual had stopped when he reached the intersection.
It’s not always so easy to determine negligence, however. In minor accidents, the police may not even be required to report to the scene of the accident. Instead, the parties involved will go to the police station to make statements about the accident. Later, an officer will be assigned to complete a report that’s based upon those statements.
Even when police do investigate an accident in person, they may have to determine fault by judging skid marks, property damage, and other factors that resulted from the accident.
What’s the Difference Between Comparative and Contributory Negligence?
While there are many situations where you can still receive compensation regardless of being at fault in the accident, it’s important to understand how your negligence affects your injury claim. Some states have comparative negligence laws, which operate on a sliding scale. This scale determines how much you’re eligible to receive based upon the amount of negligence you exhibited in contributing to the accident.
Suppose the other driver was found at fault for running a stop sign, but you were also speeding at the time of the accident. In that case, it may be determined that you were 30% at fault. If your case has an estimated value of $100,000, your 30% negligence would be deducted. That leaves you with a $70,000 limit on how much you can receive for your damages.
Contributory negligence may sound similar, but it’s very different in real legal terms. The only states to still have contributory negligence laws are Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
These laws determine that an individual is barred from filing a claim for damages if it can be found that they acted negligently in any way or to any degree. For example, if the defendant can show that you were speeding just five miles over the speed limit, you’ll be disqualified from pursuing your claim. Even though the defendant ran a stop sign and caused the accident, your speeding disqualifies you from seeking damages.
What Damages Can You Claim in a Car Accident?
While specific damages vary from case to case, here is a list of damages that traffic accident victims commonly claim:
- Medical care costs
- Future need for therapy or ongoing medical treatments
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages for time missed from work
- Loss of affection/companionship
- Permanent disability/loss of employment
If you are involved in an accident, one of the first things you should do is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. The initial consultation is usually free of charge, and it will provide you with an evaluation of your claim so you can make an informed decision about how to proceed. Working with a lawyer can help you receive a fairer settlement so you can recover from the financial burden the accident has caused.