An auto accident frequently leaves the occupants of the involved vehicles with both physical and emotional injuries. It can also leave a victim dealing with financial hardship if those injuries are serious enough to result in lost income. When another party was at fault in the collision, a victim is typically entitled to compensation for all the injuries suffered as a result of that collision. What happens, however, if more than one party was negligent, or at fault? Specifically, what happens if you were injured in a motor vehicle accident in which you were partially at fault? Are you still entitled to any compensation for your injuries? A Smyrna auto accident attorney answers that question by explaining the concept of comparative fault and how it will impact the amount of compensation to which you may be entitled.
Understanding the Basics of Negligence
Although we commonly use the term “auto accident,” car crashes are rarely true accidents. More often than not, they are actually the result of negligence on the part of one or more of the parties involved in the collision. “Negligence,” in turn, is a legal term that essentially means fault or responsibility. In order for a victim to recover damages, or compensation, for the injuries he/she suffered in a motor vehicle collision, the victim must prove that another party’s negligence caused those injuries. Negligence requires a Plaintiff to prove four things:
- That the Defendant owed a duty of care to the Plaintiff.
- That the Defendant breached the duty of care.
- That the breach caused the Plaintiff’s injuries.
- That the Plaintiff incurred damages as a result.
Although the duty of care element of negligence can sometimes be a hurdle to recovering damages in a personal injury lawsuit, in the case of car accidents courts have long held that a motorist operating a vehicle on a public roadway owed a duty of care to everyone on the roadway. Therefore, the first element of negligence is a given in a car accident. Showing that the defendant breached the duty of care requires a victim to prove that the Defendant was doing something such as texting while driving, driving under the influence, speeding, or driving aggressively. The third and fourth elements are usually not difficult to prove in a car accident lawsuit as long as the Plaintiff’s injuries were at least serious enough to incur some actual damages, such as medical bills.
Smyrna Auto Accident Attorney Comparative and Contributory Negligence (Fault)
Sometimes, a collision has a clear and definitive cause. For example, if a drunk driver plows into a parked car, the drunk driver is clearly 100 percent at fault, or negligent, in the ensuing collision. Other times, however, more than one party contributes to the crash. Imagine, for example, an interstate pile up where one vehicle loses control and plows into another vehicle, which in turn hits the car in front of it. In that case, the law must decide how to apportion negligence using one of two options – comparative or contributory negligence. Contributory negligence bars a victim from recovering any compensation if the victim contributed at all to the collision. In other words, if you were only one percent at fault in a collision you could not recover any compensation from the party who was 99 percent at fault. Fortunately, only a handful of states use contributory negligence. The more common method of apportioning negligence, and the method used by the State of Tennessee, is comparative negligence. Comparative negligence assigns a degree of negligence to each party and apportions any damages accordingly. For instance, if you have $100,000 in damages, but you were 20 percent negligent in a collision, your award would be reduced to $80,000 to account for your share of the negligence.
If you were injured in a an auto accident in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Smyrna auto accident attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.