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What Is Comparative Negligence And How Does It Affect Accident Blame?

In most car accidents, blame is pretty simple to assign. One person doesn’t follow the rules of the road and it ends with a collision. However, there are often times that the fault of an accident either can’t be deciphered or that both parties may be at fault because both contributed. That makes the issue of who gets the ticket, more problematic. The ticket typically determines whose insurance is liable, so finding fault is a major part of car accident cases.

Take the following scenario: someone is at a stop sign and looks both ways. Not seeing anyone, they pull out into traffic. At the same time, there is a car that is going thirty miles over the speed limit and doesn’t have the opportunity to slam on their brakes quickly enough, resulting in the cars, colliding. In situations where both are negligent, it begs the question of who is responsible.

Comparative negligence

In some states, the situation is handled by both parties being responsible for the damages. Being able to “split” the liability, each pays for their own damages. They file their claims through “comparative negligence.” There are also times when the damages can be calculated through ascribing percentages of negligence. When there are not equal amounts of fault, the theories of “allocation of fault” or “apportionment of fault” are used.

The amount of negligence is calculated and determined. In the example above, the driver who pulls out into traffic may only be 30% negligent, and the speeder, 70%. If the person who went through the traffic sign sues for pain and damages, he/she would only be able to recover 70% of her damages. The rest of the liability would not be covered.

The above demonstrates comparative negligence in states that use “pure” theory. Other states use a variation of the comparative negligence theory, modifying it so that there is not a percentage but both parties are equally liable.

There are two different types of comparative fault or comparative negligence laws:

Pure Comparative Fault

Some states apply the pure comparative fault rule for liability allocation. It allows the parties involved to collect for damages, even if they are as much as 99% responsible. The amount of damages allowed, however, is determined by their overall fault in the accident. If they drove while intoxicated, but get into an accident and sue because the other driver had a burned-out taillight, they may only be eligible for a limited amount of damages.

Pure Contributory Negligence

A pure contributory negligence rule states that injured parties are not eligible to collect damages if they are at all responsible for the accident.

Modified Comparative Fault

The most common comparative negligence rules use the modified fault rule, which splits the two categories. Some states employ the 50% rule, meaning if a person is more than 50% responsible, then they aren’t able to collect any damages. Other states have the 51% rule. A party residing in a 51% rule state may not recover if they are determined to be 51% or more responsible for the accident.

When there is no question about fault in an accident, insurance and law are very straightforward. Unfortunately, not all accidents are clear or concise. In accidents where the accident is the fault of both parties, it is up to the state to determine who can sue for damages, what they are entitled to and how the damages are awarded.

The best way to cover yourself if you are in an accident is to make sure to get a police report on the scene. That way there are no questions about fault. It also ensures that if there are any witnesses, they can lend credence to the recount of events preceding the accident. The amount of money you are entitled to, depends on how the accident happened and the laws that have jurisdiction over the site of the accident.

Having someone on your side is important. If you should get into an accident, make sure to contact the top accident lawyers in Houston, Texas so that you aren’t left holding the bag for injuries or property damage unfairly.