FAQs About Accident Liability

What is negligence?

Negligence refers to behavior that is generally careless and is the cause of the accident or has contributed to the accident. For example, a car driver is expected to stop at a stop sign before proceeding ahead but if he does not stop and hits another car, then the first car driver is negligent. Most personal injury lawsuits are based on negligence.

To succeed in a lawsuit based on negligence, the plaintiff must prove the following:

  • The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff
  • The defendant breach that duty
  • The plaintiff would not have been injured but for the breach of duty by the defendant
  • The defendant’s breach of duty is the cause of or contributed to the plaintiff’s injury
  • The plaintiff suffered damage or loss as a result of the accident

How to prove fault?

In most auto accident cases proving fault may not be very important. In an auto accident claim, you will be dealing with the insurance company. All you need to do is explain to the insurance company your version of events. This can be done over the telephone or in writing. You need not provide any evidence. However additional evidence will definitely assist the insurance company in processing your claim. Insurance companies generally prefer to settle accident claims rather than fight it out in a court of law. They know that litigation can be time consuming and costly.

Can I get compensation for my injuries even if I am partially at fault?

Generally you will get compensation for your injuries but it will depend on your state law. Your compensation can be reduced to the extent your fault contributed to your injuries. Many states have a adopted the principle of contributory negligence. Under this principle a victim is contributorily negligent if he or she somehow voluntarily contributes to his or her own injury, whether or not his or her participation is intentional. Michael was walking against a traffic light when he was hit by a car which was speeding. Because of excessive speed, the driver was unable to stop. The driver is likely to be found “negligent” for driving too fast, but Michael may be found “contributorily negligent” for walking against the traffic light. Depending on the state and how much Michael “contributed” to his injury, his award may be either reduced or denied.

Other states have adopted the principle of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence divides the liability in negligence to correspond to the percentage of each party’s negligence. Thus, if one party of an accident contributed 30 percent of the negligence to an accident, that party would be liable for 30 percent of the damages.

Some states have laws that do not allow the victim to claim compensation if his or her contribution to the accident is over a certain percentage.

Can I claim compensation if the accident made my existing injuries worse?

You can claim compensation in such cases. You can also claim compensation if your existing health or medical condition has resulted in your suffering more from the injuries than what a normal person would have suffered in a similar accident. Your existing condition cannot bar you from seeking compensation.

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