Did you know death by automobile accidents is the second most common cause of death in the United States? And it is close second to suicide, which means more people die (or are severely injured) on the road than die of cancer!
When there is an accident, authorities usually consider several factors before deciding who is/are at fault. In most cases, two drivers (unless it is a single-car accident case) share the fault. So, how does the legal system divide negligence? How do you determine liability for car accident injuries where both drivers are negligent? Read on to find out.
What Are the Two Theories of Negligence in Car Accidents?
To address the issue of fairly dividing the fault between the different parties who were involved in an accident, the legal system created the provision for two different theories of negligence. These are:
- Comparative Negligence
- Contributory Negligence
Although most US states use Comparative Negligence, it is only fair that you understand the differences between both to build a strong defense in case of a settlement lawsuit.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
It is the more popular of the two theories of accident liability where you can file a lawsuit against the other driver involved in the accident, regardless of your own contribution to the accident. While this provision allows practically everyone to file for claims, there is a downside to it.
Since the law says that the jury should divide the fault fairly between the parties, the compensation amount also reduces depending on your contribution to the accident. Let’s understand this with an example.
Say you make a left turn without giving proper turn signals and hit oncoming traffic (which is also driving above the speed limit, both of you are at fault. If you are claiming $10,000 as compensation, the jury will first determine what percentage of the fault is due to the no-signal turn and what is the fault percentage due to over-speeding. Let’s say the jury decides it is 30% your fault and 70% the other party’s. So, the final settlement amount will be $70,000 (30% less than your claim amount).
However, in some states, the percentage of fault should be below 50% to be eligible for a claim. This means if your fault is less than 50%, only then do you get a settlement amount, not otherwise.
What Is Contributory Negligence?
Only some states (DC, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama) use this negligence theory. The basic difference between contributory and comparative is that you cannot claim for settlement in the former if you have any part to play in the accident. Not even a ‘little fault’.
When it comes to car accidents, things are rarely straightforward where you can easily determine who is at fault. So, the best course of action is to speak to skilled attorneys who understand the nuances of the two theories and can guide you fairly.