In many car crashes, more than one driver bears some amount of responsibility. Certainly, there are cases where a driver speeds through a stop light at 80 miles per hour and crashes into someone in the intersection who didn’t see them coming and couldn’t have escaped the crash if they had. However, that’s not how the majority of crashes play out.
Ohio law recognizes that it’s not uncommon for one party to be primarily responsible for a collision while the other party may still have some responsibility. That’s why our state follows what’s called the “comparative negligence” doctrine. It means, in part, that the amount of compensation for damages a person who’s less at fault can receive may be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Note that this doctrine can be used for any kind of event that causes injury. Here, we’ll stick with talking about vehicle crashes.
How the comparative negligence doctrine works in real life
For example, say that the insurance companies determine that the driver who hit you when they failed to stop at a stop sign was 80% responsible for the crash. However, if you were texting at the time and didn’t look both ways even though you had no stop sign, you might be determined to have 20% of the fault.
That means the amount of compensation you’re due for car damage, medical bills and other losses is reduced by 20%. The other driver would get nothing since they’re more than 50% at fault.
How is the percentage of fault determined?
That only seems fair, but it means that the determination of percentage of fault can make a significant difference in how much compensation you receive. The insurance company that will be paying out is largely responsible for determining fault. However, it will do so based on evidence like the police report and statements from those involved in the crash.
If you disagree with the insurance company’s decision, you may need to take the case to court to seek the compensation you believe you’re due. The important thing is not to agree to a settlement that doesn’t seem fair just because you need to pay your medical and car repair bills. Your own insurance company may be able to cover these and then in turn collect from the other insurer. Before you make any decisions that could affect your future, it’s wise to get legal guidance.