Q. What is Comparative Fault in an Accident Case?
A. In order for you to pursue a liability claim against someone else for your injuries, the cause of your injuries must have been predominately caused by their conduct, and not your own. For instance, if you were severely injured in an auto collision, and your driving merely contributed in some small way (e.g., you were traveling 60 mph in a 55 mph speed zone), you will not likely be foreclosed from pursuing your injury claim against the other at-fault driver.
However, the percentage of your own fault (called "comparative fault") will reduce your compensation by the same percentage of fault you contributed to causing the auto collision. So, if you are found by a jury to have been 20% at fault in causing the auto collision, your compensation will be reduced by 20% of the total verdict.
How the Insurance Company will Use Comparative Fault
Insurance adjusters exaggerate the impact of your conduct-like going 5mph over the speed limit-as a basis to substantially reduce the value of your injury claim. The same result occurs in construction injury or coal mine injury cases, where the adjuster exaggerates the impact of the employee's conduct to show that the injuries would not have occurred if the employee had followed safe work practices.
While the law permits your own comparative fault to be as high as 49%, the closer your own fault gets to this maximum percentage, the less you will be compensated, and you run the risk that you will be completely foreclosed from recovering anything at all. If your fault equates to 50%, then you will be foreclosed from any recovery or compensation for your injuries. For instance, if a construction worker decides to remove his safety equipment in violation of safety rules, and is injured, it is likely that the worker's conduct will be viewed as a significant contributing factor to his own injuries.
The law and jurors take a dim view of parties whose own conduct significantly contributes to their own injuries. Be aware that insurance adjusters try to craft reasons why your alleged negligent conduct equaled or exceeded that of their own insured, which has the end result of you receiving little to nothing in settlement of your injury claim, which is why it is essential you have a skilled personal injury attorney on your side fighting for you.