Yes, in many states, you can pursue a claim even if you were partially at fault for your car accident. For example, Utah and Idaho follow a system called modified comparative fault, which allows anyone who was injured or sustained property damage in a car accident to pursue damages – as long as he or she is less than 50 percent at fault. In other states, including Washington, you can seek damages if you are up to 99 percent at fault.
In 2022, there were 58,991 crashes on Utah roads. While around two-thirds of these incidents only resulted in property damage, over 17,000 caused injuries. Tragically, in 296 accidents, people lost their lives.
Determining who was at fault in a car accident can be confusing. However, even if you have a nagging feeling you are partly to blame, there’s no need to quickly conclude that your potential claim is unsubstantiated. Instead, join us as we explore how the degree of fault is determined in car accident cases and how you can pursue a claim even if you are partially responsible.
Determining Liability in Car Accident Claims
Working out who was liable for a car accident can be complex, especially if the accident involved multiple vehicles. If poor road conditions were a factor, the local municipality may also bear some responsibility for what occurred.
If you do not work with a car accident attorney, insurance adjusters will determine who was at fault and to what extent. However, this is unlikely to result in a favorable assessment and fair settlement for car accident victims.
On the other hand, when you have a car accident lawyer fighting for your rights, he or she will examine a wide range of evidence to build a strong case, such as:
- Police reports: Utah state law requires that all accidents involving injuries or $2,500 or more of property damage be reported to law enforcement. The police will create an accident report. The report may give an overview of how the accident happened, list eyewitness statements, and name who the police believe to be at fault.
- Eyewitness statements: Your car accident lawyer may use statements from bystanders and other road users to build a picture of who was responsible for causing the accident.
- Photo and video evidence: Photographs taken at the scene can help to show how the accident happened. Surveillance camera footage of the accident can be particularly helpful in establishing what led up to the crash.
- Traffic laws: Car crash lawyers can examine applicable traffic laws to identify violations. Showing that another party broke one of these laws could strengthen your case.
- Event data recorders (EDRs): EDRs are commonly known as black boxes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 99.5 percent of 2021 model cars have these devices fitted. The EDR records 5 seconds of data prior to a crash, including the vehicle’s speed and brake usage. It can provide valuable insight into what action the driver took immediately before the accident.
- Driver behavior: A car accident lawyer will look for any evidence of reckless behavior on the part of drivers involved in the crash. This could include unlawful conduct, such as driving under the influence (of drugs or alcohol) or texting while driving.
- Accident reconstruction: In some cases, your car accident attorney may use professional accident reconstructionists. They can recreate the circumstances of the accident. This expert testimony could demonstrate the amount of liability attributable to each party.
In most cases, liability will be agreed upon through negotiations between car accident attorneys and insurance adjusters. Yet, sometimes, it is impossible to reach a mutually acceptable outcome. Your car accident lawyer will then take the case to court and fight your case in front of a judge or jury.
How Comparative Negligence Works
There are two general forms of comparative negligence laws – pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. Currently, some states govern by pure comparative negligence, while the majority – including Utah and Idaho – have modified comparative negligence laws in place.
Pure comparative negligence law
In pure comparative negligence states, persons who are up to 99 percent at fault may still file a claim for damages. Washington is one such state. However, your compensation will be reduced by the amount of liability attributed to you.
For example, if you are 90 percent liable for the accident, you will only receive 10 percent of the compensation you might have received if you were not to blame at all.
Modified comparative negligence law
In states with modified comparative negligence laws, like Utah and Idaho, a person may seek compensation from another party or parties, provided that his or her fault does not exceed the combined fault of the other parties. Put simply, you can pursue damages if you are less than 50 percent liable for the accident. So, even if you were 49 percent at fault, you could still file a claim for compensation.
However, this means you would receive less compensation than you would have if you were not at fault. Just as in pure comparative negligence states, your damages will be reduced by your level of liability. So, if you had been entitled to $50,000 but were found to be 20 percent liable, your damages could be reduced to $40,000.
The legal complexities of comparative negligence make it imperative to speak to a car accident attorney who is sure to know the laws of the state where the crash happened. He or she will also be able to explain your legal options and how likely you may be to succeed.
Discuss Your Car Accident Claim With Siegfried & Jensen
Car accident laws can be confusing. If you feel that you were partly responsible for causing the accident, you may feel that there is no point in pursuing a claim for damages. However, you should not make any decisions before talking to the experienced car accident attorneys at Siegfried & Jensen.
Since 1990, our team of car accident lawyers has fought for the rights of car accident victims. Our client reviews show our clients value our patience, compassion, and tenacity. If we determine you have a strong case for compensation, we will take on your case and use every legal resource at our disposal to pursue the best possible outcome for you.
You have nothing to lose by coming to have us examine your legal rights. Schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys today. Call us at (801) 845-9000 or fill out our online form, and we will be in touch soon.
Content checked by personal injury attorney Todd Bradford. I worked for a small law firm in Utah County, where I handled various types of cases. My main focus was personal injury and I decided that is what I enjoyed doing the most. I rejoined Siegfried and Jensen in 2012 where my focus is solely on helping personal injury clients. I take pride in helping personal injury clients and enjoy serving them. If you need an attorney for auto accidents or injuries of any kind in Salt Lake City, UT, Ogden, UT, Spokane, WA, or Boise, ID, contact us.