Can I recover compensation if I was partly at fault?

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2019 | Car Accidents

The simple answer to this question is yes, but there are some important limitations.

A textbook example of a personal injury lawsuit involving a car accident might tell the story of a careless driver who crashes into a completely blameless driver, causing injury and damages. For instance, imagine an accident in which Albus is injured when he is stopped at a stop sign. Severus, who is looking at his spellbook instead of at the road in front of him, crashes into the back of Albus’ car, causing injury to Albus. In such a case, an Ohio court would likely find that Severus caused Albus’ injuries through his negligence, and should be held liable for Albus’ damages, including medical expenses.

However, many cases are not this straightforward. In many cases, more than one driver acts negligently, contributing to the fault for the accident. The court must determine what proportion of the fault the parties hold for the accident, and whether any of them can hold the others liable for their damages. Ohio law follows a formula known as contributory negligence, in which a person who contributed to the fault of the accident through negligence can recover compensation from another driver so long as the person was no more than 50% at fault. However, their recovery is reduced in proportion to their share of fault.

To illustrate this concept, imagine an accident in which Minerva is speeding northbound in her car, Hagrid is speeding northbound on his motorcycle. Draco, driving drunk in the southbound lane, crosses the center line and clips both the other vehicles. Minerva and Hagrid are injured and each suffers $100,000 in damages. Both Minerva and Hagrid file suit against Draco.

An Ohio court determines what percentage of fault each driver holds for the accident. After examining all the evidence, the court decides Minerva and Hagrid acted negligently by speeding. Minerva contributed 10% of the fault and Hagrid contributed 20%. The other 70% of the fault belongs to Draco. Therefore Minerva can hold Draco liable, but her recovery must be reduced by 10%. She can recover only $90,000 of her $100,000 damages. Hagrid can hold Draco liable, but his recovery must be reduced by 20%, to $80,000.

Note that if Draco was injured too, he cannot recover compensation from Minerva or Hagrid because he holds more than 50% of the fault.

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