What is “comparative negligence,” and what does it have to do with accidents?

Apr 17, 2020 | Car Accidents

Let’s say that two cars are involved in an accident on a Washington roadway. Each driver does the right thing by sharing their name, contact number and insurance information. The next step is to determine liability. But if each driver insists that the other is at fault, then how can they determine who caused the accident?

Liability is not always crystal-clear in a car accident. Sometimes, each party is partially at fault. Cases like these involve comparative negligence.

How does comparative negligence work?

Comparative negligence in a car accident is when the court weighs the liability of each party and awards damages proportionately. For example, a court might find that one driver was 70 percent at fault and the other was 30 percent at fault. If the defendant feels that the plaintiff’s behavior contributed to the accident, then they may choose to counter-file a comparative negligence claim.

In comparative negligence lawsuits, the plaintiff may recover damages proportionate to their level of liability. In the previous example, if the court awards $100,000 in damages but the plaintiff is 30 percent at fault, then the plaintiff may recover $70,000.

Comparative negligence is not easy to determine

Not every case results in a trial where a judge assigns liability. Many drivers can reach a settlement out of court. Of course, no one in an accident wants to admit fault. For the defendant, this would mean paying a higher sum. For the plaintiff, it would mean receiving a smaller sum.

Determining liability for a car accident is often a long, contentious issue that requires the involvement of a personal injury attorney. However, it is a crucial step to ensure that the negligent party is held accountable and that justice prevails.