Some accidents are clearly one party’s fault. For example, a drunk driving accident: there is little that an innocent victim of a drunk driving accident can do to avoid the collision. In these cases, determining liability is usually not all that difficult. However, there are also accidents in the parties each share some of the blame for the collision. These cases can occupy a grayer area of the law. The outcome of such a case will depend on the negligence laws in the state where the accident occurred and whether the state uses a pure comparative, modified comparative, or contributory negligence model to resolve accident claims.
Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence
Contributory negligence is used by a minority of states across the United States. This legal theory states that if one party is even the slightest bit at fault for the accident, they cannot recover at all from anyone else involved in the accident.
Comparative fault is a bit more forgiving to accident victims and is used by most states. Comparative fault does exactly what it sounds like it might do; it compares each driver’s fault and allows them to recover an amount reduced in some way by their amount of fault. There are two kinds of comparative fault:
Pure comparative fault: This theory allows a party to recover even if they were more at fault than any other party.
Modified comparative fault: This theory allows a party to recover as long as they are less than 50% at fault for the accident.
Indiana is a modified comparative negligence state, so as long as an accident victim is less than 50% at fault for the accident, there is still a right to recovery.
An Example of the Different Liability Theories
Sometimes it is much easier to understand when a concrete example is given. Consider the following:
A driver hits a pedestrian who abruptly ran across the street, at night, where there is no crosswalk. At trial, the jury determines that the pedestrian is 60% at fault.
Contributory Negligence: The pedestrian cannot recover at all because he shares some of the fault for the accident.
Pure Comparative Negligence: The pedestrian can recover, but the amount of damages he will receive will be reduced by 60% because he shares in some of the blame.
Modified Comparative Negligence: The pedestrian will not be able to recover because it has been determined that he is more than 50% to blame for the accident.
As you can see, it becomes critically important to convince the jury that you, as an accident victim, had as little to do with the accident as possible.
Have You Been Injured in an Auto Accident?
If you have been injured in an auto accident, you should ensure that you have an experienced and dedicated Indiana personal injury attorney at your side. The other parties involved will almost certainly attempt to shift blame onto you, and this may reduce or eliminate your ability to recover for your accident.
The personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson has dedicated accident attorneys ready to meet with you to discuss the facts of your case. Given the firms’ trial record and reputation across Indiana, you will be in good hands. Call 888-532-7766 to speak with an Indiana accident attorney today, or contact the firm online.
Valparaiso Iron Worker Dies in Workplace Accident, Indiana Accident Attorneys, November 19, 2013.
Shocking Indiana Drunk Driving Accidents and Lawsuits – Summer 2013 Indiana Accident Attorneys, August 26, 2013