After a car accident, you might wonder what you can do if you know or suspect you were partially at fault for the accident itself. In Pennsylvania, being partially at fault does not bar you from seeking compensation, but it will affect how much compensation you get.
Just like many other states, Pennsylvania uses comparative negligence in injury cases – whether from motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, or another type of injury involving negligent acts. The purpose of these laws is to allow an injured party to seek compensation even if they partially contribute to the injuries. However, the amount of participation by the victim will affect how much in damages they receive.
The damages can be severely limited, and after a threshold, a victim might not see any damages at all.
If you were seriously injured in an accident due to someone’s negligence, but you feel you may be partially at fault, contact an injury attorney immediately. Any time there is an issue of partial fault by the victim, insurance companies and defense attorneys work hard to push as much of the blame on them as possible; thus, reducing what they pay out. You need a lawyer by your side to argue on your behalf, prove who was indeed at fault, and help you get the compensation you deserve.
What Is Negligence and How Does It Play a Role in Injury Cases?
Negligence, from a legal standpoint, is when one person’s error, misjudgment, or wrongdoing causes harm to another. When this occurs, the victim then has the right to file a claim in civil court seeking damages for their injuries against the party at fault. Any damages, which include financial losses and physical pain and suffering, are then compensable.
Every personal injury claim is based on negligence. You cannot have a personal injury case without someone acting negligently. While most claims have just one party negligent and the other the victim, you do have those where the victim is partially negligent, too.
Negligence occurs when someone breaches their duty of care to another. For example, as a motorist, you must drive safely and obey the rules of the road. If you fail to follow that duty and you injure someone, you are negligent and therefore liable for the injuries you caused.
Who Determines Fault?
Fault determinations come from insurance company investigators and the court. They examine the evidence, look to see how each party might have contributed to the incident, and then decide who is at fault. The fault is assigned to the party who was reckless or negligent; basically, the party that caused the accident.
A few factors play a role in deciding who is at fault. Some of the things insurance companies, defense attorneys, and investigators look for include:
- Accident Reports: Some accidents have police reports, especially motor vehicle collisions. These can tell if one party violated laws and caused the accident. For example, a drunk driver is arrested after causing a three-car pile up. The accident report cites that the driver was under the influence and was arrested and charged with a DUI. This report makes it clear the driver under the influence was at fault for the accident.
- Photographs of the Scene: Evidence is crucial when establishing fault, and using pictures of an accident scene help prove whether one party was at fault or not. Also, these photographs will show the damage, the conditions of the scene, and help to paint a clearer picture if the case goes in front of a jury.
- Witness Testimony: Witnesses can testify to what they saw at the time of the accident. For example, the witness might state that the at-fault driver was weaving in and out of traffic, driving recklessly, and caused the accident.
How Comparative Fault and Negligence Laws Work
When both parties play a role in the accident, comparative negligence laws apply. Under the Pennsylvania General Assembly Statute Section 7102, a person can still be partially at fault for the incident and collect damages. However, they must be less negligent than the primary defendant named in the lawsuit.
If you were injured and you hold a partial role in that injury, you can recover damages as long as the defendant is still 51 percent or more at fault.
Percentages Determine Damages, Too
Once the court determines who is at fault and the percentage that each party contributed (which is established through evidence listed above), they then will issue a verdict on the compensation for the victim. However, the court will reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives, based on how much they contributed.
For example, the court awards you $100,000 but you were 10% at fault. Now, the court will reduce your settlement by 10%, which is $10,000 – leaving you with $90,000.
The Dangers of Percentages in Comparative Negligence Cases
Any time a victim is partially at fault, it is imperative that an attorney is involved. You need a powerful case that shows that, while you were partially at-fault, you did not significantly contribute to the accident or your injuries. The defense will try to use as much evidence as possible to push more blame on you; thus, reducing how much they have to pay. A good attorney knows how to fight back, keep the odds in your favor, and still ensure you receive maximum compensation.
Speak with an Injury Advocate Today
Were you involved in a severe accident, but the insurance company says you are partially to blame? Do you know that you contributed to the accident and you want to ensure a fair settlement regardless?
Then you need a lawyer with years of experience handling injury claims. To explore your legal options, contact attorney Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq.
You can get started with a free, no obligation consultation for your injury case. Contact him now at 215-771-0430 (cell) or toll-free at his office, 800-465-8795. You can also request your appointment or ask a question about legal services by completing the online contact form.