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What if I am Partly to Blame for an Accident?

Traffic accidents are common occurrences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are about 6 million traffic accidents in the United States each year. About 3 million people a year suffer injuries and about 90 people a day die due to traffic crashes. Luckily, most traffic accidents are minor fender-benders. If you get hurt in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the negligent driver. Many people wonder whether they can get money for their injuries if they were partly to blame for the crash.

What is Contributory Negligence?

The law ascribes a portion of fault to each driver in an accident. This is known as contributory negligence. In Wisconsin, the law utilizes a standard called comparative negligence. A driver may receive compensation for damages due to an accident even if he or she is partially at fault. The law states that a driver can obtain money as long as he or she is less than half to blame for the crash. Simply stated, a driver who is 51% or more responsible for a crash is not entitled to seek compensation.

Generally, one driver is negligent in the crash. Sometimes, however, the other driver may have done something negligent that contributed in part to the accident. For example, a driver who goes through a red light and hits a car is likely negligent in causing the accident. If the other driver was speeding, however, that negligent act may have contributed in a minor way to the incident. In each accident, fault or negligence must be ascribed to each of the drivers.

How Does Contributory Negligence Affect My Claim?

When you file a claim, the amount of compensation you will receive will be reduced based on your percentage of fault. Most often, insurance companies determine the amount of fault according to the facts of the accident, the police report, driver and witness accounts and statements, damage, and other factors. For instance, if you were found to be 10% at fault for the accident, the amount that you will receive in compensation will be reduced by that percentage.

If your damages were found to be $20,000 and your percentage of fault was 10%, your claim will be reduced by $2,000 and the most you could receive would be $18,000. You can see how your own portion of negligence could hurt your claim. An experienced attorney will stand up for your rights and ensure that the insurance company properly determines and assigns negligence in the accident. It is best to speak with an attorney before you discuss the accident with the insurance adjuster or make a statement. It is also essential that you do not automatically accept an offer from the insurance company until you make sure that you understand how they made a determination of the amount.

If you or a loved one was hurt in an accident that was only partially your fault, contact Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Published December 18, 2019
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