Proving Fault in Accidents
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Garrett Monteagudo, Esq. | Last reviewed November 21, 2022
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Although you would like it to be easy to prove fault for your accident, it's not always easy. Whether it be a slip-and-fall, a car accident, or medical malpractice, claims can be challenging to prove. In order for a person or entity to pay for your injuries, you must be able to prove who the responsible, or liable, party is.
What follows are some general rules that may help you in proving fault for an accident.
In most accidents, there is going to be at least one party that is liable for any injuries. Generally, the law uses a simple rule to determine liability. If a person involved was less careful than the other, the less careful person will have legal liability. They will be responsible to pay for, at least some of, the injuries and damages suffered by the more careful one. In a negligence case, the question is whether the defendant acted as a reasonable person would have in similar circumstances.
There are some simple, common-sense rules that can be easily applied to this concept of legal liability:
- In order for a person to be liable to an injured person, there must be a duty that existed between the two parties.
- If the injured person was also partly responsible for his/her injuries (for example, acting in a reckless manner), then their award for their personal injuries may be reduced by an amount equal to how much he or she contributed to their own accident.
- If a person negligently injures another person while in the employ of another party, the employer may be responsible for the injuries sustained by the injured person if the employee was on the job at the time of the accident.
- If the injuries are sustained while on property that is poorly maintained and dangerous, the owner of the property may be liable because they were negligent in maintaining that property in a safe condition.
- If the injury was sustained because of a poorly made or defective product, the maker and seller of the product may both be liable because it is not the job of the injured person to determine where the defect was introduced.
More Than One Person at Fault
The issue of proving fault when more than one person could potentially be liable for a person's injuries is not that much more complicated. In fact, if more than one person is at fault, it can increase an injured person's chances of recovering full damages.
If the injured party can prove multiple parties are at fault, the law can make any of the negligent parties involved responsible for the entirety of their injuries. There is one major advantage to most injured persons -- they can choose who to collect the damages from.
If You Were Partly Responsible -- Comparative Negligence
There are circumstances where it is hard to say that another driver or person was entirely responsible for your injuries. In car accidents, often both the injured person and the other driver may be partly responsible. In these cases, a rule known as comparative negligence is used. Under this rule, blame is apportioned to both drivers in percentage amounts, and any awards are reduced accordingly.
Still, there is no concrete formula that insurance companies use when determining fault. As with most things in life, determining the amount of blame that can be placed on you will probably come down to a negotiation. The claim adjuster for the insurance company may come to you with a percentage. You can either accept their determination or make an argument that their calculation is not correct.
State Laws Controlling Comparative Negligence
States can be broken down into three categories when it comes to comparative negligence:
- States that allow you to recover for your injuries and damages no matter how much you contributed to an accident. In these states, you are still allowed to recover even if you were 90% responsible for an accident.
- States that prohibit an injured party from recovering if he or she was 50% or more responsible for an accident.
- In the most restrictive states, any type of recovery is barred if the injured party was at all responsible for the accident. In these states, an injured person will be prevented from recovering any damages if that person was even 1% responsible for an accident.
An Attorney Can Help Prove Fault in an Accident
While proving fault can sometimes be as simple as using common sense, it more often involves complex legal analysis. Sometimes there are multiple responsible parties, while some cases may benefit from an expert witness.
Learn more about your legal options by calling an experienced injury law attorney today.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.