Imagine this scenario: You’re waiting at a red light, minding your business. Suddenly, another car pulls up far too fast and hits you from behind. You fly forward, hitting the steering wheel with your head. Once the confusion clears, you discover that you have a minor concussion and a slight case of whiplash. Obviously, you would see yourself as the victim in this situation.
The law, however, can be more complicated than that. Insurance companies and at-fault drivers often use every available loophole to save themselves. Because of a system called “comparative negligence,” they may be able to find these loopholes.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
The law recognizes that in many situations, someone is not usually 100% at fault in an accident. Therefore, it contains a system that can assign a certain percentage of blame to both parties. This is the system of comparative negligence.
A court may assign a plaintiff (the person making an accusation) a degree of fault. If so, the plaintiff can receive only a percentage of the overall damages.
- The court rules that the plaintiff is 20% at-fault for the accident, so the defendant is 80% at-fault.
- The total damages equal $100,000.
- The plaintiff can receive only $80,000. This is 80% of the total, which is equal to the defendant’s percentage of fault.
Not all states use the comparative negligence system. Many that do will not give the plaintiff any money when that plaintiff is at least 51% responsible for an accident. Arizona is a “pure” comparative negligence state. Even if an Arizonan plaintiff is 99% responsible for their injuries, they can still receive 1% of the overall damages.
Comparative Negligence in Action
Let’s return to the scenario in our introduction.
Even if you were hit from behind at a stoplight, here are ways you could be partially responsible for this accident.
- It is nighttime, and your lights are off. The defendant can claim that they didn’t see you.
- You take your foot off the brake and inch forward a bit before coming to a complete stop. The defendant assumes you are moving further up, and they are surprised when you stop again.
- The stoplight is at the end of a curve, and oncoming traffic can’t get a clear view of what’s coming. You are stopped too far back from the white line, and the other driver doesn’t see you when taking the curve.
Talk to a Good Attorney
If you’ve been injured in an accident, talk to a lawyer. The facts of your case may seem obvious, but a good attorney can help you take a closer look. They may be able to see ways that a defendant can turn the situation around on you, and they can prepare you for this possibility.
Even if you clearly share partial blame in the event, a lawyer will be helpful. They can help argue for a fair percentage of comparative negligence. This could result in your receiving greater compensation for your pain.
Our firm is here to help if you’ve been in an auto accident. For a free consultation, fill out our online contact form, or call our office at (602) 483-6114.