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Could comparative liability affect your personal injury claim?

February 8, 2019

In many motor vehicle collisions, it is perfectly obvious who is responsible for the crash. One driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or could have swerved out of their lane. Reports from witnesses, the scene of the accident, and traffic or dash cameras can all contribute to whom law enforcement assign blame to after a crash.

However, if you wind up hurt in a crash caused by another driver, you still need to be careful about what you say to law enforcement, court officials and insurance representatives. Making the wrong statement could open the door to claims of comparative liability, which may decrease how much compensation you receive.

What is comparative liability?

Liability refers to the responsibility, both financially and legally, that someone has for an accident or collision. In some circumstances, one party has all the responsibility for a collision. However, many accidents are the result of a combination of different factors.

In other words, it may not be solely the responsibility of one driver alone that a crash occurs. In this situation, the courts will establish what is known as comparative liability. In Kentucky, the courts will assign a specific percentage of responsibility or comparative fault that each party contributed to the crash.

In some cases, the split could be 90 percent the responsibility of one driver and 10 percent the responsibility of another. Other times, the division of liability may be closer to equal. The percentage of comparative liability assigned to you as an injured party after a crash will directly affect the compensation you will receive in a personal injury lawsuit.

How does comparative liability affect the final compensation amount?

When considering a personal injury lawsuit or tort brought against someone else for injuries and financial losses related to a crash, the courts will consider what the actual financial impact of that injury is. That may include lost wages, medical expenses and property damage to your vehicle. However, if some degree of comparative liability gets assigned to the victim, the courts will reduce the compensation that person receives according to that percentage.

Avoiding apologies and language that implies you are somehow responsible for a crash is one way to reduce the risk of comparative liability affecting your situation. Many insurance adjusters will try to trick people into implicating themselves in a crash, even when it is clearly the responsibility of another person. They will do this to limit how much they have to pay out related to the crash.

Working with a Pikeville personal injury attorney who can guide you and protect your interests through the process is also a wise decision. Your attorney can help you build a case for compensation while also assisting you in avoiding mistakes that could lead to comparative liability and decreased compensation.