Lawyer Tips: Who is Responsible for Car Accidents in the U.S.

In the United States, liability is very important when it comes to car accidents, and the most important aspect of liability determination is the apportionment of fault, with the party at fault being held responsible. But car accidents are often not so simple, often both parties are at fault, but each person's fault is different, some are very serious, some people's fault is not so serious, then, in the case of both parties are at fault, in the end, how the responsibility is shared?

The law of car accidents in the United States is state law, so each state's law is different, so you must consult with an attorney in the state where the car accident occurred. Below we explain in detail the apportionment of fault laws for each state, so that you know how to apportion liability if you are in a car accident in a different state, but please be sure to consult with an attorney in a timely manner.

1. What is comparative or contributory negligence

Historically, if two people were involved in an accident and the injured party was only marginally at fault, he or she would not be required to pay for the injuries or damages sustained. This way of determining injury is known as the legal provision known as pure contributory negligence.

For example, suppose Luther and Martin are involved in an accident. At night, Luther hits Martin's car, which is making a left turn onto a 2-lane street. Luther did not see Martin's car because even at night (a dark night), Martin was not driving with his headlights on. Under a pure contributory negligence theory, Martin could not recover for his injuries because he was partially responsible for the accident. Does that sound harsh? In fact, some states still follow this rule (Alabama, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia).

Most states now use some form of contributory negligence, which allows the injured party to recover for his or her injuries, even if he or she is partially responsible. There are currently three forms: pure comparative negligence; 51% comparative negligence; and 50% comparative negligence.

2. Pure Comparative Negligence

In states that have adopted pure comparative negligence as a measure of injury, if the injured person is partially responsible for the injuries he or she suffered, the damages he or she can recover are reduced by the percentage of liability he or she is responsible for. For example, suppose Michelle is injured in a car accident in which 80% of the responsibility lies with her. Her damages amount to $10,000, of which Michelle is entitled to $2,000, or less than 80% of $10,000 or $8,000, which she is responsible for.

States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.

Comparative Fault Percentage of 51% In states that have adopted a comparative fault percentage, recovery is barred if your party was more than 51% responsible for the accident. In other words, if you are more than 51% at fault, you are not able to file a liability claim and lawsuit to sue the other driver for negligence.

For example, Dennis was driving in excess of 25 miles per hour when he struck Terry's car, which was crossing the street. Although Terry was partially responsible because he did not look at the road before crossing, the insurance company placed 60% of the liability on Dennis due to his speeding. Even though Dennis broke an arm in this accident, due to the fact that he was more than 51% at fault in the accident, he is not entitled to recover compensation for his injuries based on that fact.

States: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

3. Comparing the 50 percent fault ratio

In states that have adopted a 50 percent standard for settling auto accident claims, a person who is injured in an accident and is less than 50 percent responsible is entitled to compensation. If the injured party is 50 percent or more at fault, he or she is not entitled to compensation. For example, Richard and Susan were backing out of their parking spaces at the same time when they accidentally struck each other's cars. Neither party was paying attention while backing up and is therefore considered equally liable in the accident. Because both were 50% responsible in the accident, they were not entitled to compensation.

States: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

4. How the percentage of negligence is determined

After an accident, it is the insurance company adjuster's job to identify the relevant degree of negligence based on the circumstances of the accident. There is no secret formula for determining the percentage of fault in an accident injury. You will negotiate with the adjuster and agree on the extent, if any, to which you are the party at fault.

An experienced personal injury New York accident injury New York accident injury lawyer can help you determine the percentage of fault. He or she knows how to evaluate the accident as well as fight on your behalf for the lowest percentage of fault. If you and the insurance adjuster reach an impasse, the courts are ultimately your next step in resolving the negligence issue.

5. Negligence and Auto Insurance

Insurance companies often offer additional coverage/protection (for extra money) to help pay for property damage and/or personal injury as well as medical expenses, regardless of fault. So if you are injured in an accident and it is primarily your fault, the law does not allow you to get compensation from someone else's insurance, but under your own policy, you will have additional coverage and your insurance company will pay for your injuries.

This additional coverage is called PIP (personal injury protection) or no-fault coverage. In this case, you file a liability claim with your own insurance company to obtain compensation for medical expenses and lost income up to a specified maximum, without any discussion or disagreement about the circumstances of the accident and who was at fault. Whether or not you can file to receive more compensation from other at-fault parties depends on the laws of your state.

In many states, uninsured/underinsured coverage is required. This compensates for damages caused by an accident where the other party also did not have insurance or did not have enough insurance to cover the costs. It also protects you if someone else flees the scene of the accident or if the driver's car is stolen.

Aside from the damage sustained, the degree of negligence is probably the most important factor in determining how much you can end up getting paid for your accident injuries. In most cases, you and the insurance company will know (through the circumstances of the accident) the degree of negligence of both parties. Was it entirely the other party's fault? Was it primarily the fault of the other party? Or was it only a little bit of fault? If your state takes comparative fault, the adjuster will reduce your award by the percentage of comparative fault you take. If you are only 10% at fault, your recovery will be reduced by 10%. If the accident was entirely the fault of another person, your compensation will not be reduced.

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