What Does Comparative Negligence or Comparative Fault Mean?

One of the first things any personal injury attorney will tell you is to never admit fault after a car accident. Even though you’ll have to speak with the other motorists involved in the crash, a police officer, and your insurance adjustor, you shouldn’t take responsibility for the incident until all the facts are taken into account.

Always provide truthful information about the general facts: names, times, and location of the accident. Descriptions of motor vehicles. But never offer information you haven’t been asked about, and never assume that you’re the sole culprit for the accident. This is because even if you think you’re responsible for the event (say, you ran a red light or were texting at the time of the incident), you don’t have all the relevant facts to say with absolute certainty that you are the only person who’s at fault.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is actually a term of art that means that if you’re at fault for an event, you can still recover damages. However, the degree of your responsibility will be subtracted from the amount of available compensation.

For example, let’s say that you got into a car crash and suffered $6,000 in medical bills and $6,000 in car repairs, for a total of $12,000 in damages. If you’ve been reading our monthly blogs, you know that up to $10,000 of those damages will be covered by your own PIP insurance. You can then sue the other party for the remaining $2,000.

Let’s say that the accident was 50% your fault and 50% the fault of the other motorist. In a comparative negligence jurisdiction (such as Florida), you would only be able to recover $1,000.

Other relevant factors:

There are so many components in car accidents. This is why witness accounts, surveillance footage, and accident reconstruction experts are often essential to determine liability. Generally, courts will consider the following:

– Driving over the speed limit
– Poor road conditions that could’ve been easily fixed
– One or more drivers failed to leave enough space between them and the car in front of them.
– Mechanical failure in the car
– Issues with the car’s tires
– Whether seat belts were worn
– Driving under the influence
– Distracted drivers

Maybe one single circumstance is 100% responsible for the accident. But if two or more of these conditions came into play on the part of two or more drivers, each party will be apportioned their own level of culpability.

There are many ways to reconstruct the event. During the discovery process in a lawsuit, the parties will attempt to establish whether there were/was:

– Security cameras at the site of the accident
– Skid marks on the road
– Tire damage reflecting sudden braking
– Witnesses to the accident
– Medical evidence suggesting that the type of injuries sustained could have been caused by XYZ (e.g. a frontal collision, being rear-ended, traveling at high speeds)
– Roads in poor condition (e.g. could the Department of Transportation be held partially liable?)
– Vehicle mechanical issues (thus making either the car manufacturer or the car’s mechanic partially liable?)

The entire process is like putting together a puzzle. In order to get all the pieces right, you need an experienced car accident attorney to help you figure it out. Then, and only then, can it be determined whether you’re solely or partly responsible for the accident and reduce any damages based on your comparative fault.

Call Clark Law if you’ve been in a car accident in Tampa Bay

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients who have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, and we can help you determine the best next step.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.

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