Balancing Blame: Understanding Comparative Fault in Car Accident Cases

personal injury lawyers calgary

As car accidents become more widespread, more cases highlight the difficulties of liability for the parties involved, particularly comparative negligence.

In the case of Littley vs. Brooks and Canadian National Ry. Co., plaintiffs sought damages for the deaths resulting from a collision between a car and the defendant company’s electric train. The jury found negligence on the part of both defendants and the car driver, attributing 25% fault to the defendants and 75% to the driver. 

The Court found the damage estimate too high because of a misunderstanding, so it ordered a new trial to determine how much each person should get and who was partly at fault.

When determining who’s at fault in car accidents, it’s important to compare each party’s fault to decide how to share the blame. A car accident lawyer Calgary specializes in solving these complexities to support their clients effectively.

Comparative Fault

Comparative fault, also called comparative negligence, allocates a portion of responsibility to each driver involved in a car accident. This influences the outcome of insurance company payouts. 

Elements of Comparative Negligence

In cases where both parties might be at fault, a few key steps include the accused person claiming in a personal injury lawsuit. Here, a personal injury lawyer needs to prove:

  • The plaintiff had a duty to mitigate harm through reasonable actions.
  • The plaintiff didn’t take enough care to avoid getting hurt, and this played a part in causing their injuries.

Types of Comparative Negligence

If the person being sued thinks the injured party is partly to blame for their own injury, using a defence based on shared fault is a good strategy in a personal injury case. Here are the types of comparative faults: 

Pure Comparative Negligence  

This type of negligence enables both drivers involved in an accident to seek compensation for damages regardless of their share of fault. However, the reduction in settlement amounts depends on the degree of each party’s responsibility.

Modified Comparative Negligence

This permits you to collect from the other driver only if your degree of fault falls below a certain threshold. Unlike pure comparative negligence, which allows claims even if you’re up to 99% an at-fault party, modified comparative negligence doesn’t.

Two threshold rules: a 50% rule and a 51% rule.

  • You’re not lawfully entitled to file an injury claim if you’re 50% or more responsible, even if it’s equal to or greater than the other driver’s fault.
  • Similar to the 50% bar rule, but the threshold is slightly higher. Here, you can’t recover damages if you’re found to be 51% or more at fault. If you’re 50% or less at fault, you can recover a proportionate amount of your damages.

Examples of legal process cases where comparative negligence defences may arise:

Auto AccidentsA driver’s failure to signal while changing lanes contributes to a collision.
Motorcycle AccidentsA motorcyclist exceeds the speed limit, which leads to a crash with another vehicle.
Truck AccidentsA truck driver fails to secure cargo, causing it to fall correctly and collide with other vehicles.
Bike AccidentsA cyclist ignores a stop sign and ends up colliding with a car.
Pedestrian AccidentsA pedestrian crosses the street against the traffic signal and gets hit by a turning vehicle.
Dog BitesA dog owner neglects to leash their aggressive pet, which leads to a bite incident.
Slip and FallsA property owner falls short of cleaning up a spilled liquid, causing a customer to slip and fall.
Wrongful DeathThe deceased’s failure to wear a seatbelt contributed to fatal injuries in a car accident.

The Basics of Fault in Car Accidents

An at-fault accident is a motor vehicle accident resulting from a driver’s negligence. Victims of such crashes seek compensation for serious injuries through personal injury claims. Although the process can vary depending on the laws of the state, Calgary personal injury lawyers, for example, are equipped to assist victims in navigating personal injury law.

What Does Fault Mean?

In cases of car accidents, fault carries a specific legal definition. There’s a fault for an accident if:

  1. The driver fails to fulfill their obligation to exhibit reasonable care while on the road. If the driver’s behaviour falls below what an average reasonable person would have done, they’re deemed “negligent.”
  2. The driver’s negligence directly caused the car accident.

Personal injury lawyers say that various behaviours can render a driver at fault for an accident. These behaviours include:

  • Driving while intoxicated with alcohol or substances.
  • Exceeding the speed limit.
  • Engaging in distracted driving.
  • Non-adherence to traffic signals or other road regulations.
  • Following another vehicle too closely.
  • Refrain from yielding to drivers or pedestrians who have the right of way.

Other Types of Fault

Type of FaultDescriptionExamples
Recklessness or Wanton ConductThis involves a disregard for the safety of others. It goes beyond simple negligence and indicates a conscious choice to act dangerously.Aggressive driving, road rage, or excessively speeding.
Strict LiabilitySometimes, fault can be determined based on strict liability laws, especially in accidents involving defective products or dangerous activities. For example, if a car accident was caused by a defect in the vehicle, the manufacturer might be held strictly liable, regardless of negligence.Car accidents caused by a tire defect, malfunctioning brakes, or other vehicle defects.
Intentional MisconductThis rare category applies when a driver intentionally causes an accident. Since most accidents are unintentional, intentional misconduct isn’t commonly cited in car accident cases.A driver deliberately running into another car.
Contributory NegligenceA few jurisdictions follow this older rule, where if the plaintiff is found to have any degree of fault in causing the accident, they can’t recover damages from the other party.A pedestrian jaywalking and getting hit by a car, where both the driver and pedestrian share some fault.

Proving Fault for a Car Accident

Figuring out who’s at fault is important in car crash cases, even in states with no-fault insurance. In no-fault states, the driver who caused the crash might still have to pay for big injuries or property damage. In states where the at-fault rule applies, the driver who caused the accident has to pay for everything, like property damage, lawyer fees, and injuries.

Various types of evidence as a basis to establish fault in a collision, including:

  • Statements from the drivers involved.
  • Witness statements from observers.
  • A police report from the scene.
  • Photos and videos of the crash.
  • Skid marks on the roadway.
  • Vehicle damage type and location.
  • Accident scene evidence like blood or debris on roadways.

Case Examples

Common examples of negligence in this category include, but are not limited to, the following scenarios:

  • A driver is running a stop sign and colliding with another car.
  • A driver illegally used the bicycle lane and hit a bicyclist.
  • A driver is running a red light and striking a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
  • A driver exceeding the speed limit and rear-ending another vehicle.
  • A driver made an unsafe lane change and crashed into a motorcyclist.
  • A driver abruptly changed lanes and collided with the passenger side of another car.
  • A driver impaired by drugs or alcohol crashes into a pedestrian on a sidewalk.
  • A driver distracted from the road, colliding with another car.
  • A driver failing to yield the right of way and T-boning another vehicle.
  • A driver making an illegal U-turn and crashing into a motorcyclist.
contributory negligence in accident

Why Your Next Stop Should Be a Lawyer’s Office

Understanding comparative negligence in motor vehicle accidents helps you protect your legal rights by knowing how fault is divided. Seeking justice? Start with a free consultation with a car accident lawyer Calgary. This is your first step towards ensuring fair compensation. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through your personal injury claim, including handling legal fees and fighting for your rights.

Frequently Asked Questions

What steps should I take immediately after a car accident in Calgary?

  1. Move to Safety. If you can, get to a safe spot. Turn on your hazard lights.
  2. Check for Injuries. See if you or anyone else is hurt. Don’t move seriously injured people.
  3. Call 911. If there’s any injury, big damage, or danger to others, call for help.
  4. Swap Info. Exchange names, contact details, and insurance info with the other driver.
  5. Take Photos. Get pictures of the cars, damage, and the area around the accident.
  6. Find Witnesses. If anyone saw the accident, get their contact info.
  7. Tell Your Insurance. Report the accident to your insurance company without saying it was your fault.
  8. See a Doctor. Go to a doctor even if you feel okay, to check for hidden injuries.
  9. Keep Records. Save all documents related to the accident, like recovery bills and repair costs.
  10. Talk to a Lawyer. Getting advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer can help if the accident is serious.

What are punitive damages, and can I claim them in Calgary?

Punitive damages are extra money awarded in lawsuits to punish the person or company that caused harm. This is to discourage them and others from doing something similar in the future. In Calgary, you can claim punitive damages in certain cases, especially if the other party’s actions were harmful, reckless, or disregarded others’ safety.  

How do multiple-party car accidents work in terms of fault in Calgary?

In Calgary, multi-party car accidents complicate fault determination. Calgary car accident lawyers analyze each driver’s role to assess blame. This impacts car accident victims, especially those with serious personal injury, as compensation in a car accident claim correlates with fault percentage.

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