What If I Was Partly To Blame For The Accident?
In an accident where another party is completely at fault for a victim’s damages, the injured party maintains the right to file a claim against the at-fault party (or their insurer), and the right to seek recovery for 100 percent of their losses. This is because the state of Nevada adheres to an at-fault system of recovery, also referred to as a traditional tort liability system.
In the event that a victim in an accident is partially to blame for the accident or their injuries, though, the right to recover 100 percent of the value of their damages no longer exists. Instead, the rule of comparative negligence will apply. If you have been in a car accident in Las Vegas or surrounding areas where you were partly to blame, here’s what you should know about comparative negligence, as well as how our Las Vegas car accident lawyer can help.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is a rule that addresses a plaintiff’s rights and limitations in the event that they contribute to their own accident and injuries via an act of negligence of their own. Most states adhere to a system of comparative negligence.
As found in NRS 41.141(1), in any action that is brought for the purpose of recovering damages for death or injury, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff (i.e. any fault on the plaintiff’s part that caused the accident or contributed to injuries) will not serve as a bar to recovery if the negligence was not greater than the negligence against the party/parties against whom damages are sought. This means that so long as you were not 51 percent or more to blame for your accident and injuries, even if you were partially to blame, you still maintain the right to seek compensation for your injuries.
Comparative Fault & Recovery Of Damages
While the law may permit a person who contributed to their own injuries to pursue damages so long as they were not more at fault for the accident than was the defendant, the rule of comparative negligence does prevent you from recovering your full compensation award.
In fact, per the rule of comparative negligence, a plaintiff’s recoverable damages award will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault. Another way to say this is that a defendant will only be liable for damages in proportion to their degree of blame. For example, suppose a jury concludes that a defendant is 80 percent at fault for an accident, and the plaintiff is 20 percent to blame. Overall, the total value of damages suffered by the plaintiff is $500,000. As such, the defendant would be liable for 80 percent of this, or $400,000.
The above rule also applies in the case that there are multiple defendants: each defendant will only be liable for the portion of the judgment that is reflective of the amount of negligence that is attributed to that defendant.
How The Jury Awards Damages When Comparative Negligence Exists
Keep in mind that the vast majority of personal injury claims and car accident claims are settled out of court, and therefore never make it before a judge or a jury. However, in the event that an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached, you may decide that litigation is your only option. Should this be the case, here’s what you should know about how the jury will determine each party’s proportion of damages.
First, should the jury decide that the plaintiff still maintains the right to bring a case despite the fact that they contributed to their own accident/injuries due to the fact that their contribution was less than 51 percent, they will first issue a general verdict that details the total amount of damages the plaintiff would be able to recover without regard to the plaintiff’s negligence contribution (NRS 41.141(2)(b)(1)). Then, the jury will also return a special verdict that indicates the percentage of negligence that is attributable to each party in the action (the plaintiff and any defendants).
How Insurance Adjusters Build A Claim Of Comparative Negligence Against A Claimant
Because the rule of comparative negligence is one that can be used to reduce the defendant’s degree of liability and therefore the amount of money they ultimately have to pay to a plaintiff, insurance adjusters love to try to put blame for an accident on a plaintiff’s shoulders. Even if you were not partially to blame for your accident or your injuries, an insurance adjuster may argue that you:
- Did something negligent to contribute to the accident, such as taking a sip of coffee while driving or traveling one or two miles above the speed limit;
- Failed to wear your seatbelt or have your passenger airbags turned on, which contributed to the degree of injuries that you or your passenger suffered, therefore making you partially liable for the accident; or
- Failed to seek medical care or follow your doctor’s orders, and, as such, your injuries have not healed to the degree that they would have otherwise.
Watch out for accusations of this sort, and be aware of the fact that an insurance adjuster is not your friend and is not advocating for your right to your full settlement amount. If you have been accused of being partly at fault for an accident, regardless of whether or not this accusation is legitimate, you need to call an experienced Las Vegas car accident attorney immediately.
Call The Naqvi Law Firm Today
At the office of the Naqvi Law Firm, our experienced Las Vegas car accident lawyers believe that you deserve to be fully compensated after a crash. We know the underhanded tactics that insurance companies use to devalue plaintiffs’ claims, including placing blame for the accident on a claimant’s shoulders. If you have been declared partly to blame for an accident, call our law office today. We will not only help you to refute any unfounded claims but can also explain the law of comparative negligence to you in more detail and aggressively advocate for your full recovery amount. Reach our law firm today by phone or online to request your free consultation and get started.