After many motor vehicle accidents, it’s clear that one party was at fault and the other party was blameless. For instance, it’s a relatively straightforward matter to sort out the legal issues of negligence and liability in a case where one driver was not paying attention and crashed into the back of a car that was stopped at a red light.
In other cases, the issues are more complicated. It can be hard to sort out the issues of negligence after a multi-vehicle accident, or one in which more than one party did something careless.
In the past, people who bore any fault for their accident were barred from recovering compensation in a personal injury case. In Ohio, this changed in 1980, with the passage of a comparative negligence law.
Under Ohio’s comparative negligence law, courts now assess the evidence and determine the percentage of fault each party bears for the accident. If a person was injured and suffered damages from the accident, they can hold another party liable, so long as the injured person’s fault was no more than 50%. However, their recovery will be reduced in proportion to their share of the fault.
Imagine a case in which Alice loses control of her car and collides with Zelda’s pickup truck, which was speeding. Zelda is injured. Zelda files suit against Alice, seeking compensation for $100,000 in damages.
Once it has heard all the evidence, the court determines the percentages of fault. Because she lost control of her car, Alice bears 90% of the fault for the accident. Because she was speeding, Zelda bears 10% of the fault.
Zelda’s percentage of the fault is below 50%, so she may recover damages from Alice. However, because her negligence contributed 10% of the fault for the accident, her recovery is reduced by 10%. Instead of recovering $100,000, she can recover only $90,000.
This example is quite simplistic. In real life, these cases can be highly complicated. Still, it is important for the injured to know that they may have the right to compensation even if they were partly at fault.