In many car accident cases, determining fault is a fairly simple case. For example, if one driver was intoxicated and slammed into another vehicle, the injured party could demonstrate that the drunk driver was at fault, solely due to his or her intoxication.
But other times, a determination of liability may be more difficult; this is especially the case if both drivers were somewhat negligent, contributing to the accident. Here, however, one question remains: if you were partly at fault for your car accident, can you still recover compensation in a personal injury claim?
Pennsylvania Law – Comparative Negligence
Pennsylvania follows the doctrine of comparative negligence. This means that if your case is taken to trial and a jury reviews the facts of the accident, they are empowered to apportion fault and reduce any damage award based upon a comparative analysis of the negligence of both parties. But keep in mind, a jury may decide you receive no compensation if you were more negligent than the defendant.
Here is an example of how this legal principle works: let’s say a jury decides to award you $100,000 for an auto accident in which you were struck by a distracted driver. However, the jury determines your comparative negligence was 30 percent because you were texting at the time of the wreck. This means your $100,000 award would be reduced by $30,000 resulting in a recovery of $70,000. Additionally, since the jury found your negligence was only 30 percent and the defendant’s negligence was 70 percent, you will get that damage award. If, on the other hand, the jury assessed your negligence at 60 percent, you would be prohibited from recovering anything since your negligence cannot be higher than the defendant’s negligence. In fact, according to Pennsylvania law, if you are found to be more than 50 percent at fault for an accident, you will be unable to seek compensatory damages.
Establishing Negligence is Necessary in a Philadelphia Personal Injury Case
If you hire a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer and attempt to recover through an injury claim, you have the burden of establishing the negligence of the defendant. Negligence is the wrongdoing, or inaction, of the other party (or parties) resulting in you suffering an injury. All personal injury claims are rooted in negligent conduct.
As mentioned, Pennsylvania is a comparative negligence state. Most states follow some form of comparative negligence, but a minority of states apply contributory negligence. This is a much harsher negligence standard, which states that if the plaintiff contributed to their injury, even by as small as 1 percent, they cannot pursue damages through a personal injury claim. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has not followed this standard of negligence. Instead, an injured party can be partly at fault and still recover damages through a personal injury claim.
How Fault is Determined
Fault is usually assigned to the party found to have acted negligently or recklessly (the party whose actions were beyond the established boundaries of reasonably safe behavior, or that did not comport with the duty of care owed to the injured party).
The evidence surrounding the incident usually establishes fault. This evidence may include the police report and whether one party was issued a traffic citation, the account of an eyewitness, the statements of both parties, etc.
Contact a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one was seriously hurt in an auto accident, contact The Pearce Law Firm. Even if you think you were partly at fault for the wreck, you may still be able to recover financially for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact our Philadelphia car accident injury law firm today for a free consultation.