Many people who suffer serious injuries in an auto wreck are uncomfortable or unsure of whether they have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the person or persons who are to blame for causing their collision, especially in cases where the injury victim knows that they might have done something to cause the accident.
However, if you are interested in recovering compensation for a car accident and are partially at fault for causing the collision, there may be hope for your claim depending on where you live in the U.S.
Some states like Alabama and North Carolina operate under pure contributory negligence laws. This means that those injury victims, who have contributed to causing their accidents, are not able to file a claim in civil court and obtain compensation for their losses.
Almost every other state operates under comparative or modified comparative fault laws, which allow for injury victims to seek repayment of their damages in civil court. The state you live in will determine which law applies to you.
Comparative fault is similar to modified comparative fault, but in modified comparative negligence states there is a limit to how much fault you can carry while still pursuing a civil claim. Most states that adhere to modified comparative negligence laws put the cap at somewhere between 49 and 51 percent liability. Once that threshold has been reached in these states, the injury victim loses the opportunity to be awarded compensation.
States that practice pure comparative fault, or just comparative fault, allow injury victims to seek compensation no matter their percentage of fault.
In both comparative fault and modified comparative fault states, the injury victim will still need to be held accountable for their portion of fault, and the civil court system does this by reducing the award the injury victim is entitled.
Here’s how it works: the judge assigns a percentage of fault to the injury victim, say 20 percent, for example. Then, whatever the judge or jury issues as an award is reduced by this percentage of fault, or 20 percent in our example. Let’s take a look at a real-life example of how comparative fault would work:
Louann wasn’t wearing her seatbelt when she was t-boned in an intersection. The judge found her 10 percent at fault because she chose not to wear her seatbelt. The jury awarded her $250,000 which was then reduced by her 10 percent of fault, or $25,000. Her final award was $225,000.
The takeaway here is even if you think you have done something to cause the injuries you sustained, you could be entitled to financial compensation. It can’t hurt to bring your case to an attorney for review to see what your legal options are based on your individual circumstances.