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Financial Responsibility in Auto Accidents

While discussing an auto accident claim, it is important to consider the role of each driver in relation to the accident. This will help determine not only who was at fault, but who is financially responsible.

Before continuing, it would be helpful to define comparative negligence and contributory negligence. As the names suggest, these methods help in deciding the degree of negligence on the part of both the drivers involved. These methods are especially useful for the defendant to prove the other party’s involvement in the accident and thus drastically cut down his financial responsibility.

To further illustrate both the methods properly, let us take an imaginary example of a car accident between David and Joe. While David alleges that Joe was speeding and thus caused an accident, Joe alleges that David ran a red light, thereby causing the accident. As it is obvious from the situation, both the drivers were at fault. Lets discuss how to calculate the degree of each driver’s fault and thus divide the financial responsibility of the damages caused by two different methods of comparative and contributory negligence.

Comparative negligence: Using this method, the negligence of both the drivers is compared and the fault of each driver is established in simple percentage. The financial responsibility is also divided by the same percentage. Due to the simplicity of this method, it is widely used in many states. Consider how this works in our example of David and Joe. If David is found to be 30% at fault and Joe 70%, then the total loss due to the accident is divided in 30:70 ratios between David and Joe. The person with more liability pays the other one after deducting the other one’s share from the total.

Comparative negligence has several other forms. Here are the two most common:

  • Pure Comparative negligence: According to this method, the defendant is bound to pay the plaintiff his share of amount regardless of the plaintiff’s share of fault in the accident. To get a better understanding, suppose David is the plaintiff and Joe the defendant. Now, even if David’s share of negligence is termed at 85%, Joe has to pay David the remaining 15% of the damages regardless of his fault being less than that of David.
  • Modified Comparative law: - this is a more logical method in which the payment obligation is slated at 50%, i.e. if the plaintiff’s fault is 50% or less, he is entitled to compensation, but if his fault increases 50% by even a single percentile, he is not entitled to any compensation from the defendant.

Contributory negligence: This is a less common method which is practiced in only five states so far. In this method, unlike the modified comparative negligence method, if the plaintiff is found to be even 1% at fault, his entire compensation is cancelled. Due to its hard rules, it is often termed as the ‘harsh method’. Using this method the plaintiff can get compensation if he is able to prove that the other driver could have avoided the accident.

In legal terms, this is known as ‘last clear chance’. In our example, if David proves that even though he ran a red light, Joe still had enough space to steer away his vehicle and thus avoid the accident, he can receive compensation for his losses.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyers

If you are involved in a car accident the legal system may at times seem confusing and overwhelming. Because laws differ from state to state it is important to contact an experienced car accident lawyer who knows the laws in your state and can help you navigate the legal system and receive the compensation you are entitled to.

Additional resources provided by the author

At The Hoffmann Law Firm we have experience handling Missouri auto accident cases. Contact us soon after a car accident by calling (314) 361-4242 and scheduling a free consultation.

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