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What happens if you are partially at fault for your accident?

On Behalf of | Sep 29, 2022 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

If you’ve been injured in an accident, then you’re probably hoping that you can recover compensation for the injuries that have been caused to you. And that harm might be significant, too, given that you’ve suffered physical, emotional, and financial damages. One of the best ways to recover these losses and ease your pain and suffering, if you’re wreck was caused by a negligent driver, is to pursue a personal injury claim.

However, as you pursue your case, you need to be prepared to counter aggressive defense arguments. If you get caught flat-footed during negotiations or at trial, then your entire recovery may be jeopardized. You don’t want that to happen to you.

What is comparative negligence?

One common defense made in these cases is comparative negligence. Under Washington law, even if you successfully impose liability, the amount of compensation that you recover can be reduced if you’re found to be partially at fault.

For example, if you were speeding at the time of the wreck or following too closely, then the court, or the jury, may assign a percentage of fault to you. Your recovery is then reduced by that percentage. For example, if you’re awarded $200,000 but are found to be 20% at fault, then you’ll lose out on $40,000 and therefore will only recover $160,000. In other words, your ability to adequately cover your damages may be put at risk.

So, even if the facts of your case a straightforward, you might come face-to-face with this issue.

When will a comparative fault argument be made?

In just about every case. Therefore, you should expect it to come up. The defense may try to argue any of the following to demonstrate that you’re at least partially to blame for the accident in question:

  • Driving too fast for road conditions
  • Following too closely
  • Speeding
  • Failing to signal
  • Neglecting to wear a seatbelt

These are just some of the behaviors that the defense may turn to when making its argument. However, you should expect them to be creative in figuring out how to try to shift the blame back onto you.

How to counter a comparative fault argument?

As you prepare your case, you’ll want to fully analyze your own driving behavior leading up to the accident and be honest and realistic about it. Even if you did do something that you maybe shouldn’t have, you can still make legal arguments to try to reduce the amount of fault that’s assigned to you. For example, you may want to have an accident reconstruction expert analyze all of the physical evidence in play so that he or she can provide an opinion as to how the accident occurred and who, exactly, is to blame.

You might also have other arguments that minimize the perception of how much your errant actions actually contributed to the wreck. But just remember that you’ll want to talk to witnesses who can speak to how the accident occurred and reach out to experts who may be able to support your position.

Do you need help crafting your legal strategy?

How you approach your personal injury case can make all the difference. If you’re too lax, then you could end up recovering less compensation than you expected, or your claim may be completely denied. If, on the other hand, you have a well-thought-out case that speaks to every legal element applicable to your case, then you can increase your chances of winning your case and recovering the compensation that you need.