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Understanding the Comparative Negligence Law in Motor Vehicle Accidents

— October 31, 2022

Understanding the nuances of negligence law may be difficult, especially if you suspect that you have some responsibility for your injuries.

Comparative negligence is a tort law theory that applies to casualty insurance in several jurisdictions. When determining who is at blame for an accident, the doctrine of comparative negligence argues that the judge or jury must evaluate each party’s degree of guilt or negligence in light of their level of responsibility for the incident.

The victim’s compensation will reduce by the amount of their fault. It means each motorist can file a claim with the other driver’s insurer for compensation for any losses.

Why Should You Be Concerned About Negligence Laws?

Comparative negligence laws impact whether you can file a claim and how much money you can get from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Remember that when submitting a claim with the other driver’s insurance carrier, they may also consider your degree of fault.

Motor vehicle accident attorneys can help you build a strong case against the liable party. They can also help you have a better grasp of the negligence laws that apply to your case.

Different Forms of Comparative Negligence

Modified and pure comparative negligence are the two most common forms of this legal doctrine. However, another rare third type of comparative law exclusively used in South Dakota is slight-gross comparative negligence.

Modified Comparative Negligence

You can only recover money from the other motorist under a modified comparative negligence statute if your culpability is below a certain level. In contrast to pure comparative law, modified comparative negligence does not allow you to claim if you are more than 50% at fault.

The law applies two different thresholds: 50% and 51%.

According to the 50% threshold rule, the insurance company might refuse to compensate you if you are 50% or more at fault. In addition, you can’t submit a claim with the other driver’s insurance carrier if your degree of responsibility is equal to or higher than theirs.

The same applies to the 51% threshold rule, but the law allows you to recover from the opposite party if you were 50% at fault. However, when you reach 51%, you lose the right to sue in that manner.

Pure Comparative Negligence Law

Lady Justice; image by Ezequiel_Octaviano, via
Lady Justice; image by Ezequiel_Octaviano, via

Both drivers at fault in an accident can sue for damages under pure comparative negligence law. It permits this irrespective of individual guilt. Therefore, you can still submit a claim even if you are 100% to blame for the incident. However, under pure comparative negligence, your compensation reduces proportion to your culpability degree.

For instance, if you are 99% at fault, your settlement payout will reduce by that percentage. There are now 13 states that adhere to this regulation, including California and New York.

Slight-Gross Comparative Negligence

Slight-gross negligence solely exists in South Dakota. Since there are no hard and fast rules for determining what constitutes slight or gross carelessness, this law is not as definite as pure or modified comparative negligence.

For instance, if the other driver’s negligence was gross and yours was slight, your motor vehicle accident attorneys can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company and collect damages under South Dakota law. However, to sue the other driver for damages, you need to prove that they were much more at fault than you were.

How Is the Issue of Comparative Negligence Handled?

Based on its assessment of its insured’s level of carelessness, the insurance company will issue a settlement offer to the affected party. The insurance company may conduct its investigation by speaking with all parties and witnesses and reviewing the official accident report.

If an insurance company thinks its insured was only partially to blame for an accident, it could decide not to offer to pay any damages for the loss. The insurance company and the injured party may negotiate until they agree on a settlement. In the absence of a settlement, the courts decide whether comparative negligence exists in the case at hand.

Call a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer for Legal Guidance

Understanding the nuances of negligence law may be difficult, especially if you suspect that you have some responsibility for your injuries. Therefore, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced automobile accident attorney who can provide you with tailored legal advice and help you through the litigation process, whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.

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