In many cases, car accidents result from one driver’s negligence. Because Ohio operates under an “at-fault” system for automobile crashes, the responsible party may be liable for damages.
But not all collisions are caused by a single person. You might find yourself in a situation where you could be considered to have contributed to the accident. If you are partially at fault, are you barred from receiving compensation? Not necessarily.
When you bring your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, a representative from the insurance company, a judge, or a jury will determine your level of fault. If they decide that you played a role in causing the crash, the proportion of your responsibility will be subtracted from your settlement or award amount.
Because the compensation you receive can be reduced based on your percentage of negligence, you may face a lot of pushback from the insurance company as you try to recover a fair amount. The company’s representatives may try to assign some or most responsibility to you to decrease the payout. Therefore, it is important to take certain steps to protect your case.
How Comparative Negligence Works
Generally, when an injured person brings an accident claim, they base their arguments on the theory of negligence. The principle provides that a person may be held responsible for covering damages suffered by the injured party because they failed to exercise the level of care a reasonable person would have under similar circumstances.
The theory of negligence can be broken down as follows:
- A person owed someone else a duty of care
- The individual breached their duty
- The breach caused an accident
- Another person sustained damages because of the accident
Not all accidents are caused just by one person. It’s possible that the injured person themselves contributed to it. So, who is financially responsible then? In short, both parties.
Ohio is a modified comparative negligence state for accidents. That means you may be considered partially at fault for your accident, but you may still be entitled to compensation. However, you and the other driver would share financial responsibility for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, or car repairs.
To illustrate, suppose you were in a car crash caused because the other driver was speeding. At the same time, you were distracted and noticed too late that the other vehicle was going to collide with yours.
It’s determined that the other driver was 80% negligent, and you were 20%. Although your total damages were $100,000, you can only receive $80,000 (the full settlement amount minus your percentage of fault).
Under the comparative negligence doctrine, you can only recover compensation if your proportion of responsibility was 50% or less. Therefore, if you were determined to be 51% or more negligent, you are barred from receiving financial recovery.
Deciding Your Share of Negligence
The insurance company, a judge, or a jury will decide your level of responsibility for your accident. They will do so by considering several pieces of evidence like the police report, photos or videos of the scene, and witness statements.
You can follow certain protocols to protect your case and pursue just compensation:
- Don’t admit fault. Whether you believe you contributed to the accident or the other driver makes you feel like you did, refrain from taking the blame. The insurance company may use something as innocuous as an apology to demonstrate that you were at least partially negligent.
- Discuss your case with an attorney. Aside from law enforcement officials, the only individual you should give information about the incident to is your lawyer. They can assess your case and determine whether you might be considered at fault and can discuss your legal options. They can also advise you on what to say to prevent you from making statements that could hurt your case.
- Document the scene. Take notes, photos, and/or videos of the scene. The more details you have, the better equipped your attorney will be to combat the insurance company’s assertions that you caused the crash in whole or in part.
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Although you can be considered partially at fault for your accident, you may still be able to seek compensation from the other driver. A lawyer can conduct an in-depth investigation to establish responsibility and negate arguments concerning your negligence.