Determining who is at fault in a car accident is the most crucial part of your claim. It’s important to understand who is liable for damages, and who will have to pay what amount as a result.
If one driver was careless or negligence, while the other driver obeyed the laws of traffic and exercised due care, then the negligent driver is responsible for the accident. But like all things, it’s usually not that simple.
To learn more about how to handle a car accident claim, contact The Law Offices of Loren Scott Etengoff today.
What Is Negligence?
Negligence is a legal concept that pervades the concept of tort law. It has a three-factor test for proof. This is:
- The negligent party must owe a duty of care to an injured party. In other words, the plaintiff must establish that the negligent party had a legal requirement to show due care. In terms of a traffic accident, drivers are (by law) expected to obey the laws of traffic and ensure that they operate their vehicle in a safe and cautious manner. This duty of care is implied every time a driver takes their care on the road.
- The negligent party must have breached that duty of care. Essentially, for someone to be considered of negligent, their conduct must not live up to a certain standard of care. For traffic injuries, this is very well defined. Traffic laws are specific and one party has the right of way. This does not, however, mean that determining fault is necessarily easy.
- The breach of duty must result in injuries to the plaintiff. This simply means that if a negligent party breaches a duty of care and nothing results from it, the plaintiff does not have standing to sue.
But what happens when both parties are partially at fault for an accident?
What Is Washington’s Comparative Fault Rule?
Each state approaches tort or personal injury cases a little bit differently. Some states operate on a “pure” comparative fault system while others operate on a modified rule. What does that mean?
Comparative fault holds each individual liable for their misconduct in an accident. A comparative fault system is said to be “pure” when either individual may sue so long as the other party was negligent. However, that party is only responsible for their percentage of the negligence.
Thus, an injured party may file suit against another party even if they are 99% to blame for the accident. So long as they are not 100% to blame they can recover damages.
When does this happen? More often than you might think. For instance, let’s say that one driver is backing out of their driveway. They don’t really look before entering the street; they should have. Another driver is driving up the street at 40 mph in 30 mph zone. That driver collides with the other driver. One driver’s fault does not negate the others. In this case, both drivers are partly liable and may recover damages commensurate with their injuries.
But how much can they collect?
Let’s say that the driver who backed out of the driveway sustained $10,000 worth of damages and is considered 60% responsible for the accident. The other driver sustained $5,000 worth of damages and is 40% responsible for the accident. The driver on the street caused $10,000 and is responsible for 40% of that or $4,000 total. The driver backing out of the driveway is 60% responsible for $5,000 worth of damages or $3,000. That is a net difference of $1,000 paid to the driver who is backing out of their driveway.
Proving Fault in a Car Accident
Fault is proved on the basis of the best available evidence. If you are involved in a car accident, you should take pictures of the damage to your car and the other driver’s car. If there are witnesses, you should take their names down. The police will do some of this for you if they are called to the scene, but police reports cannot always be relied upon to give a definitive description of events.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident and have sustained serious injuries, you’ll likely have to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy. They have a tendency to make the process as difficult as possible. For that reason, with the stakes as high as they are, most folks elect to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to litigate their claim. The Law Offices of Loren Etengoff have successfully garnered excellent settlements for our clients. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.