Comparative Fault in Car and Truck Accidents: Assessing Shared Responsibility

When it comes to car and truck accidents, determining who is at fault can be a complex process. And this is something that often goes on top of the sheer chance of victims suffering from physical injuries, lost wages, and immense mental stress. Trying to see who’s at fault involves not just one person responsible for the accident – instead, multiple parties share responsibility. In these situations, what is known as “comparative fault” may come into play.

In a fast-paced, modern city like New York, the problems with a truck accident can be even more devastating than normal. For instance, in 2021 alone, the Big Apple recorded 88 fatal large truck accidents. On the other hand, 149 pedestrians were hit by trucks, including 81 cyclists and 48 motorcyclists. It’s these numbers that a New York truck accident law firm may find itself dealing with regularly. 

What is Comparative Fault?

Comparative fault is the legal concept that multiple parties can share responsibility for an accident. Specifically, each party involved in the accident can be assigned a percentage of fault or blame based on their actions leading up to the incident. For example, in a car accident where one driver ran a red light while another was speeding through an intersection, both drivers could be assigned some percentage of fault under comparative fault laws.

How Does Comparative Fault Work?

In most states with comparative fault laws, there are two different systems for assessing shared responsibility: pure contributory and modified comparative negligence.

  • Pure Contributory Negligence: Under this system – which exists in only four states (Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington DC) -if one party involved in an accident is found to have been even slightly at fault for causing the incident – sometimes known as being “contributorily” negligent – they are barred from recovering any compensation for damages or injuries sustained during the collision.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence: In most other states which use changed comparative negligence laws – damages awards may be reduced based on how much each party was at-fault (“contributed”) toward causing a crash. However – when pursuing legal action following an auto collision- they cannot recover if their respective level of liability exceeds 50% or more (some also cut-off injury claims completely), resulting from damages caused due partly by them as well as any corresponding monetary award will often correspondingly drop along with it reflect this assessment of shared fault.

For example, if a person were in an accident with another driver and were found to be 30% at fault for the collision because they were texting while driving, the total damages they could recover would be reduced by 30%; however, if it is discovered that their percentage of fault had exceeded a predetermined point (usually between 50% to 70%), that individual may not be entitled to compensation.

How Is Comparative Negligence Determined?

An investigation will typically occur following the accident to determine comparative negligence. This investigation may include reviewing police reports, interviewing witnesses or victims, and analyzing physical evidence such as skid marks or vehicle damage. Comparative negligence can also be determined during a trial or mediation process. Each party will be able to present evidence and argue their case before a judge or jury tasked with making this determination.

Mitigating Factors

In some cases- even where one driver is more at fault than another- there might still exist circumstances beyond someone’s control leading up to an auto collision. Examples could include severe weather conditions like heavy rain, foggy conditions, snowy roads, and sudden mechanical malfunctions- unforeseeable occurrences which would not necessarily prompt either driver(s) involved into acting negligently. If established, successfully mitigated factors can reduce someone’s percentage of contributory negligence liability on a case-by-case basis.

Negotiating Comparative Fault Claims

Suppose you are involved in a car incident with shared responsibility. In that case, you likely want to ensure that any damages incurred due will be allocated among all parties whose attributes contributed towards causing injuries. Claims adjusters employed by insurance companies generally offer lower settlement amounts than you deserve, and often policyholders feel too intimidated negotiating with them alone without help from counsel experienced in litigating traffic accidents involving shared liability.

Working alongside personal injury attorneys specializing in comparative fault cases can be the best action for policyholders affected by a car accident where neither party has been assigned full responsibility. An attorney will typically offer guidance on how to negotiate with insurance adjusters and provide representation providing legal assistance for negotiations or mediation should a case proceed to trial.

In Conclusion

Comparative negligence is often difficult in highway accidents because determining what percentage may have come from each of the multiple parties involved is only sometimes straightforward. However, an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in traffic collisions will be adept at determining shared fault and work tirelessly to help ensure their client is adequately compensated in cases where unforeseen circumstances mitigated contributory negligence.