If you are a driver who has been injured in a car accident, you may be eligible for compensation. However, this will also depend on your contribution to the accident.
In most cases, you may recover damages if the other driver was at fault for the accident. A good example is if the driver hit your vehicle from behind. In that case, that driver might be held responsible for the accident.
This is because state laws require drivers to observe a certain distance between them and the vehicle behind them. This distance gives the driver enough time to brake when they need to.
The same applies if the other driver was reckless. For instance, if you've been hit by a drunk driver, chances are they are responsible for the accident. This is because drunk drivers have impaired judgment on the road, increasing the risk of accidents.
That said, the amount you may be able to recover will also depend on your contribution to the accident. For instance, let's say you ran a red light and got hit by a drunk driver who was speeding at that time. In that case, the comparative negligence rule might apply.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is a legal concept that seeks to share responsibility between parties involved in a personal injury lawsuit. This concept argues that one party's contribution to the injury influences the amount they may be able to recover as compensation.
While most states adopt this doctrine, some go a step further to use only a specific kind of comparative negligence. There are three main types of comparative negligence. They include:
Under contributory negligence, if both parties are responsible for the accident, they cannot recover compensation for the injury. Again, using the example above, in states like Alabama and Maryland, both drivers (one who ran a red light and the other who was speeding and drunk) cannot recover compensation from each other because they were both in violation of the state's traffic laws.
Pure Comparative Negligence
In a pure comparative negligence state, you can recover compensation for any percentage of the other party's fault. For example, if the court rules that you are 99% responsible for the fault, you can still collect the 1% you are not responsible for.
This might seem like a small amount initially, but it all depends on the value of your case. For example, let's say your case was worth $10 million. If you were 99% responsible for the accident, you may still be able to recover $100,000 as compensation for your damages.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Under modified comparative negligence, one party cannot recover compensation if they are more than 50 percent responsible for the accident.
Here's an example:
In a car accident lawsuit, the judge rules that Peter is 51% responsible for the accident and Paul 49%. Therefore, Paul can recover 51% of the damages, the percentage of Peter's contribution to the accident. On the other hand, Peter cannot recover anything from Paul because the former is more than 50 percent responsible for the accident.
So what happens if both parties are ruled to be 50% responsible for the accident? Although rare, they may not be able to recover compensation from each other.
Some states have the 51% bar rule, though, allowing both parties to recover compensation from each other if they were both 51% responsible for the accident.