There is a saying that every car accident has three sides: what one driver claims happened, what the other driver claims happened, and the truth. Working out what actually took place and who is at fault is essential if you want to obtain financial compensation after a car accident. In some cases, however, both drivers share the blame for a crash. In this situation, shared liability could allow both parties to collect recovery.
If you have any concerns about securing financial compensation for a car accident for which you were partly responsible, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to discuss your case.
Local Accident Reports works with affiliate personal injury law firms across the country that share our dedication and client-focused approach to personal injury cases. No matter where your accident took place, we can help. Call us today to schedule your free consultation with one of our nationwide car accident lawyers.
What is Shared Liability?
The majority of car accident cases are not black and white, so it isn’t shocking to learn that more than one driver can be at fault. The legal term for two or more drivers being at fault for a car accident is “shared liability.” In these scenarios, the laws of the state in which the accident took place will govern how fault is assigned.
How is Liability Established in a Car Accident?
Fault is crucial to a car accident claim because the at-fault driver is responsible for paying damages. In personal injury law, the at-fault driver is referred to as negligent because they acted without regard for the safety of others on the roadway. In situations where liability is shared or fault is not obvious, an investigation will be conducted in order to determine who is accountable for the damages. Other factors that contribute to the determination of fault include:
The Police Report Taken at the Accident Scene
Following a car accident, the officer who responds to the scene will write up a police crash report. This is an official document that contains, among other things, eyewitness statements about the collision, a basic sketch of the scene, and the officer’s statement regarding what they think happened and who is to blame.
Based on the officer’s interpretation of the accident scene, traffic citations could be issued to one or more of the people involved. For example, if one driver ran a stop sign and the other was speeding, both might be given a citation. However, a citation in and of itself is not necessarily the final word in who was at fault, particularly when it comes to pursuing damages.
The Insurance Carrier’s Findings
Every driver’s insurance company will help determine fault. They will investigate the accident and assign each driver a percentage of fault, based on their actions. For example, if two drivers were involved in a car accident. At the time the crash occurred, both of them were speeding. However, one driver was going 15 miles an hour above the speed limit while the other was going only 5 miles an hour above the speed limit. The driver who was speeding by 25 miles an hour would most likely be assigned a larger percentage of fault.
The insurance company representative managing the claim will also base the degrees of fault on the circumstances leading up to the crash pursuant to state law. So, if the laws in the state where the accident occurred ban non-hands-free cell phone use behind the wheel, and one of the drivers was physically on their phone at the time of the collision, then state law would be considered when apportioning fault.
Insurance adjusters often work jointly with their respective clients and across companies in order to determine each driver’s degree of fault. Each party can advocate for the smallest percentage with the aid of a car accident attorney. In some cases, a driver’s insurance company might pay the insured driver’s portion of fault.
For instance, if the driver from Insurance Company X was 60% at fault and the driver from Insurance Company O was only 40% at fault, then Insurance Company X might pay 60% of the settlement, while Insurance Company O pays the remaining 30% to expedite the settlement.
The Advice of a Car Accident Lawyer
In the event that either driver is unable to reach a settlement agreement with the adjusters, they are able to seek legal guidance and advice from a qualified attorney. With the assistance of a car accident lawyer knowledgeable in the state’s fault laws, they can seek additional financial compensation for their injury claim. If the insurance carriers and legal counsel are still unable to come to an agreement, then it will be up to the court to determine who is at fault and to what degree.
If the parties go to court, a jury will listen to the argument presented by each side, and consider all relevant evidence. They will then decide if one of the drivers was 100% at fault for the accident or if both drivers shared fault. After a jury has determined each driver’s percentage of liability, the court will calculate all associated damages, such as medical expenses, lost earnings, and property damage.
The jury will come up with a total settlement amount that the judge will then reduce by each party’s portion of fault. So, if one party is awarded $10,000 in damages, but was 40% at fault for the accident, their compensation will be lessened by $4,000.
What Factors Effect How Fault is Determined?
There are multiple factors that influence how fault is determined such as negligence laws, fault laws, and personal injury protection coverage.
No-Fault v. Fault States
Different states have different laws pertaining to fault. In a no-fault state, every driver involved in a car accident, whether they are at fault or not, has to submit their claim to their own insurance company first. So, even if someone was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light, they would still need to file their initial claim with their own insurer.
In a fault state, injured parties may file their claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. So, using the example above, the rear-ended driver could file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer right away.
All states also have varying laws regarding negligence in a car accident. These laws define negligence within a state as it refers to personal injury cases.
Pure Comparative Negligence
11 states follow the laws of pure comparative negligence rule. This doctrine allows a plaintiff to claim damages for any percentage of fault assigned to the other driver. For example, if a driver in a pure comparative negligence state is found 99% at fault for a car accident, they can still file a claim for damages for the 1% they are not at fault.
Modified Comparative Negligence
35 states adhere to the laws of modified comparative negligence, sometimes referred to as proportional comparative fault. Similar to pure comparative negligence, the doctrine of modified comparative negligence lets each person recoup their damages, minus their percentage of fault as long as it is less than 50% or 51% depending on the state.
Pure Contributory Negligence
Only four states and Washington D.C. abide by the laws of pure contributory negligence. In these states, if you bear even 1% of the fault for a car accident, you will not be eligible to recover any damages at all. If you are assigned even 1% of fault, you will have to file a claim with your own insurance company. A good car accident attorney can help prove that you shared no liability for an accident, ensuring you are eligible for compensation.
Is it Possible for Both Drivers to Collect Damages?
Yes, it is possible for both drivers to collect damages as long as the accident took place in a fault-based state. The amount of damages available to each party will depend on whether the driver’s insurance carriers are able to reach an agreement with one another.
Damages via an Insurance Claim
As previously mentioned, each driver’s insurer will work to determine the percentages of fault assigned to those involved in the accident. They will then use a mathematical formula to calculate the precise dollar amount of financial compensation that each driver should receive.
Damages via a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If the drivers and their respective insurance companies are unable to come to an agreement on fault or damages, a court will have to step in. If a victim feels they are not being offered a fair settlement, their car accident attorney will file a lawsuit demanding the compensation they deserve.
Talk to a Nationwide Car Accident Lawyer
Any kind of car accident can leave you worried and unsure of what to do. The situation can be even more stressful if you think you may have been at fault. In order to ensure you know and fully understand your rights and all potential avenues for financial recovery, it is essential to speak with a qualified car accident attorney as soon as possible.
At Local Accident Reports, we understand where our clients are coming from and what they have been through. That is why we offer a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case and discuss your legal options. Call us to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced nationwide car accident lawyers today.