Personal injury discussions are often centered around fault. The person responsible for a car accident must compensate the other driver. One person did it; the other person was injured; the first person must pay. Fault, however, can be much more complicated than that.
Picture any car accident you’ve ever had. In all likelihood, there was at least one thing you could have done differently.
The law recognizes that fault can be spread around. That’s why comparative negligence laws were invented. If you are undeniably responsible for a car wreck, it’s unlikely that you could win a personal injury case. However, if you are partially at-fault, you can still receive compensation in a car accident.
PARTIAL FAULT IN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE
“Comparative negligence” refers to each driver’s level of responsibility in an accident. The law assumes that both parties could be negligent, and it compares that liability.
To accomplish this, the court assigns a direct percentage of fault to both the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) and the defendant (the person being sued). Afterward, the plaintiff can receive compensation according to the defendant’s percentage of fault.
Here’s how it works. Say the plaintiff rolls through a four-way stop, putting the front of their car one foot into the intersection. Along comes the defendant, going over the speed limit and ignoring their stop sign. They hit the plaintiff, crushing the front of the plaintiff’s car. By anyone’s estimation, the defendant is responsible for this crash. However, the plaintiff could have avoided the accident if they’d made a complete stop.
After hearing both sides of the case, the court decrees that the plaintiff is 10% responsible for the crash, and the defendant is 90% responsible. Because the plaintiff bears some fault, they cannot receive the full reward of the lawsuit. They can receive only 90% of the total compensation, as that is the defendant’s portion of guilt. Therefore, if the total amount of damages is $100,000, the plaintiff can walk away with only $90,000.
PARTIAL FAULT AND INSURANCE
Comparative negligence may also apply to insurance claims. In Oklahoma, an at-fault driver is typically responsible for compensating the victim. Insurance benefits normally cover this damage.
If, however, there is partial fault in a car accident, the at-fault driver’s insurer may grant only partial benefits to the victim. Just as a civil court would, the insurance company might give only a percentage of the total benefits.
WHAT IF I AM MOSTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACCIDENT?
In Oklahoma, plaintiffs who are found 51% or more responsible for their injuries cannot receive compensation. The same may be true for insurance benefits, depending on the insurers involved.
If you are mostly at-fault for an accident, you are still entitled to benefits from your insurance company. These companies are designed to pay for both the at-fault drivers and the victims. If your insurance company denies your benefits, claiming it’s because you caused the accident, seek the help of a good attorney. They can help hold your insurer accountable for following through on its obligations.
If you are having difficulty receiving your car insurance benefits, regardless of fault, contact our office today. We can work with your insurer and help you receive the compensation you need. If you are the victim of a car accident and need help proving your case, we can help with that, too. Call us today at 918-492-7674, or contact us online.