What Is Comparative Fault?
If you are hurt in an accident, you are eligible to sue the responsible party and receive compensation for your injuries. You may already be aware of that fact, especially if you have spent some time on the Personal Injury section of our website. You may also have guessed (correctly) that you won’t have much luck suing if you were the sole cause of the accident.
What about when the blame for a particular accident is shared between multiple people, one of whom is the injured victim? This question is the subject of “comparative negligence” or “comparative fault” laws, which vary widely from state to state and determine who pays (and how much) when the victim is partially at fault for their own injuries.
Comparative Fault Law in Minnesota
In Minnesota, state law dictates that an injured victim can recover compensation, even if they contributed to the cause of the accident – but only an amount proportionate to their share of the blame (or lack thereof). For example, if a victim of a car accident suffers $10,000 in damages but is found to be 10% responsible for the accident, they can recover $9,000 (90% of the total damage).
This approach is not absolute. Individuals who are found more than 50% responsible are barred from any recovery at all. So in the above example, if the car accident victim was, instead, found to be 51% at fault, he would receive nothing.
Comparative fault in practice
The questions of who is at fault and what each party’s proportional share of responsibility is in an accident are ultimately determined by the jury if the case goes to trial. The jury will look at the circumstances of the particular accident as well as the acts and omissions of everyone involved.
Here is an example: An injured victim sues after being rear-ended in his vehicle. It is usually assumed in cases like this that the rear driver is at fault, either for following too closely, driving too fast, or failing to hit the brakes in time to avoid a collision. It is possible, however, that the driver in front was distracted and had to stop short, causing the crash. Often both parties were driving with some degree of negligence, and therefore they share the blame.
In this case, the jury would review the facts of the case, gleaned from witness testimony and perhaps expert opinions. Then they would come to a conclusion as to the percentage of fault attributed to the front and rear drivers.
St. Paul, Minnesota, Personal Injury Lawyers
In every personal injury case, the determination of fault is crucial. If you have been injured in an accident, the opposing party or their insurance company will likely try to pin the blame on you to avoid paying. It is important to remember that, even if you are partially at fault, you can still recover compensation for your injuries in many cases.
In order to maximize your settlement in a personal injury claim or get the best outcome at trial, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side from the beginning to investigate your case, negotiate with the insurance company, and advocate for your interests. For information about how Collins, Buckley, Sauntry & Haugh, PLLP, can help, contact us online or call 651-227-0611.