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Understanding comparative fault

| Jun 2, 2021 | Car Accidents

When drivers in Norwich, Connecticut, get into an accident, they may sue the at-fault party for damages. However, proving fault in a vehicle accident is often a difficult process, and the responsible driver can present various defenses. Some states make the process easier with comparative fault laws.

Overview of comparative fault laws

Comparative fault laws decrease the amount of compensation a plaintiff can claim in cases with unclear fault. It differs from contributory fault, which prevents plaintiffs from compensation regardless of the amount of fault.

The comparative fault law assigns partial blame to each driver and awards compensation based on the percentage of fault. For example, if one plaintiff seeks $50,000 and the court finds them 20% at fault, they get $40,000. If the other driver seeks $30,000, they could only get $6,000 or 80% of their total damages. Comparative fault ensures that insurance providers only have to pay for the damages caused by their client.

Types of comparative fault laws

Comparative fault laws vary by state, but each state applies one of two common types. Pure comparative fault allows plaintiffs to sue for compensation after motor vehicle accidents even if the court finds them 99% at fault. Thirteen states assign pure comparative fault, which include Arizona, Alaska and New York.

Modified comparative fault bars a plaintiff from collecting if they get assigned a certain percentage. Some states, including Georgia and Tennessee, enact the 50% bar rule, which prohibits plaintiffs from suing for damages when they are found 50% more at fault.

Twenty-one states, including Connecticut and Illinois, apply the 51% rule, barring plaintiffs from collecting under 51% fault. Only South Dakota uses the “slight and gross” rule, meaning the plaintiff’s percentage of fault must be “slight” in comparison to the other driver.

There are some exceptions to comparative fault laws, such as an intentional tort, where the plaintiff has no fault. A lawyer may determine if a plaintiff’s case meets the exceptions, so it’s useful to seek legal help.

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