All motor vehicle injury lawsuits require careful analysis of two important concepts: 1) liability, and 2) damages.
Liability is the state of legal of responsibility for which an at-fault person is accountable to an injury victim. Damages are the losses that a victim has or will suffer as a result of the collision. This article focuses exclusively on liability, or fault, in motor vehicle injury cases.
It can be easy to determine fault where, for example, a driver causes a collision by running a red light or driving at excessive speeds. If such conduct injures someone, the at-fault driver will be responsible for putting the injured party back in the position they would have been had the collision not happened (as far as can be accomplished by money). This may include payment for lost wages and the cost of medical care required by the injured party.
Where the injured party bears no responsibility for the collision, they will be entitled to recover from the at-fault party compensation for all their losses.1 Where there is more than one at-fault party the obligation to compensate the victim is shared between them. For example, if two cars injure an innocent third-party while street racing there would be at least two at-fault parties from which the victim can recover.
Where more than one party is at-fault, a judge or jury will determine at trial the appropriate apportionment of fault. Cases have held at-fault parties to a 50:50 division of fault, where each is consequently responsible for 50% of the victim’s damages. Other cases have divided fault unevenly: 10:90; 60:40; and so on. There have also been cases involving numerous at-fault drivers—the same analysis is applicable to all at-fault drivers involved.2
This principle, however, is one that cuts both ways. If the conduct of an injury victim partly caused a collision, a judge or jury may apportion some fault to them. In such cases, the damages awarded to a victim will be proportionally reduced. Like the example above, if the injured driver was found to be 10% at-fault, they would be entitled to compensation for 90% of their damages. The victim may also be apportioned fault where their conduct resulted in more significant injuries (e.g., failing to wear a seatbelt in a car, or a helmet on a bicycle).
Establishing liability in motor vehicle accidents is a fundamental part of the lawsuit, but can be complex and vary depending on the specific details of a collision. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle collision, contact Siskinds’ Personal Injury department for a free consultation.
1 Subject to limitations beyond the scope of this article.
2 The concept of joint and several liability is beyond the scope of this article.