The aftermath of a car accident is a confusing scene. You are trying to determine not only what damage has been done to your vehicle, but also what injuries you and your passengers may have sustained. If you live in one of the 39 “fault” states, you also need help determining who the responsible party is. It can be difficult to know what to do because the laws differ from state to state.
There are a dozen no fault states where you must contact your own insurance first. In the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah, injured parties must have serious injuries in order to sue the negligent driver for a settlement.
The only other way a lawsuit for a car accident can occur is if the medical bills and repair costs reach a certain monetary threshold. This threshold varies between states.
At Fault States
All other states require the negligent driver to bear the financial responsibility. However, if you believe the other driver to be the one at fault, it is your job to prove that is the case. In several instances, it is obvious who is at fault. For example, the other driver could have ran a red light or rear-ended you because they weren’t watching.
However, it is not always easy to determine who caused the car accident. If you or a passenger has been injured, there are three things you have to prove.
The first thing is if there was a legal obligation. In the event of motor vehicles, that legal obligation is that you operate your automobile with a reasonable standard of care. You must obey the rules of the road and do your best to pay attention to the drivers around you.
You then must prove that that legal obligation was neglected or broken. In other words, you have to prove that the other driver was neglectful in how they operated their vehicle. Remember, the standard is how a “reasonable person” would behave. The negligent driver must act in a contrasting manner to that of what a normal person would. A way to prove this is if a traffic violation was issued for the other driver.
Finally, you must prove that the negligence of the other driver is what led to the injuries. Essentially, you have to prove that your driving alone didn’t cause you or your passengers to get hurt, and if the accident had not happened, everyone would be fine.
Shared Fault Cases
In some cases, both drivers were acting in a negligent manner. If that is the case, injured drivers may not be able to recover any compensation from the other driver. What can be recovered is limited based on the rules of each state.
A state with pure comparative rules allows drivers who were also negligent to recover damages from other at-fault drivers. However, the amount will depend on how much you share in the responsibility. An example is if you are found responsible for 70 percent of the accident and the damages add up to $10,000, you can only collect $3,000 from the other party.
States with modified comparative fault rules will allow you to collect a percentage from the other at-fault driver as long as your percentage in causing the accident is less than 50 percent. If you are found to be only 40 percent responsible and there is $10,000 worth of damage, you can collect $6,000. However, if you are still deemed 70 percent responsible, you collect nothing.
Finally, there is a contributory negligent rule in some states. This means that any drivers who share any blame for the car accident cannot collect anything from one another.