It happens in an instant: One minute you are driving along and the next you find yourself in a car accident. You may suffer severe injuries and property damage due to the accident. Accident victims can file personal injury lawsuits in order to receive compensation for their losses, but what happens when those victims are partially responsible for the crash? Wisconsin has a legal rule in place that is known as contributory negligence, which allows those who are partly at fault for an accident recover the damages they need to recover.
How Does Contributory Negligence Work?
Many accidents are clearly the fault of one party. Sometimes, however, an accident may be caused by a variety of factors. More than one driver may have contributed to the crash. For example, if a driver goes through a red light and collides with another vehicle that was speeding, both may be partly to blame for the accident. Generally, one driver is more at fault than the other. In some cases, both drivers are equally to blame.
The logic behind contributory negligence is simple. If a person is partly responsible, he or she can obtain compensation for expenses minus the amount of his or her own portion of fault. This is also known as comparative negligence. For example, if you were in an accident that was 20% your fault and 80% the fault of the other driver, you will be entitled to 80% of your damages. In this example, if your damages were $10,000 you would be entitled to $8,000.
It is important to note that you may only obtain compensation if your portion of fault is less than 51%. If you are found to be 51% or more at fault for the accident you will not be entitled to any compensation whatsoever. Therefore, it is important that fault be properly ascribed.
How is Fault Determined?
Generally, insurance companies determine and ascribe a portion of fault to each driver in an accident. They gather information from a variety of sources including police reports, driver statements, and witness accounts to determine the portion of fault that each driver had in the accident. In some instances, you may need an attorney to assist in proving the other driver’s fault in the accident.
If you receive a settlement offer from the insurance company, do not accept it until you first speak with a qualified personal injury attorney. Many times the insurance company will want to quickly resolve a claim with the least amount of payout as possible. Often, initial settlements are too low and do not fully cover your expenses and damages. Therefore, it is in your best interest to have your attorney work to negotiate a settlement that is fair. If a settlement cannot be reached the matter may go to court for a resolution.
If you were hurt in an accident, do not try to go it alone. Count on our experienced legal team to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Call Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. today for a consultation.