Can I File a Claim and Get Compensation if I Was Partly at Fault for My Car Accident?
Some drivers commit such egregious behaviors behind the wheel that when an accident occurs, liability for damages is clear. Yet, many times fault is not as simple as blaming one driver. One or more drivers might be at fault for an accident, but auto manufacturers and other entities could also share fault for a traffic crash. Insurance companies and courts in Louisiana apply comparative negligence, also called comparative fault, to situations where two or more parties share fault in an accident.
If you have been involved in a car accident in New Orleans or the surrounding area, it’s in your best interest to consult with an attorney who can build a strong case against the other party that shares fault with you. It’s likely they will try to use a comparative negligence defense to shift as much blame for the accident as possible. Until you have the chance to meet with a lawyer, we provide more information about comparative negligence, Louisiana’s comparative fault law, and ways to protect the value of your claim after a car accident.
What Is Comparative Fault?
Comparative fault is a legal doctrine that informs personal injury law. It deals with the idea that sometimes, more than one person or party is responsible for an accident or event that leads to death or injury. It is a common defense strategy in car accident claims. The defendant’s insurance company wants to pay the lowest amount of money possible to the plaintiff. They shift as much blame as possible to the plaintiff as a way to reduce financial liability for their policyholder and avoid a large payout.
Each state applies contributory negligence or some form of comparative negligence to personal injury claims. In a contributory negligence state, plaintiffs cannot collect any compensation for damages if they are partially at fault for their own injuries. In contrast, comparative negligence states allow plaintiffs to collect a reduced amount of damages if they were partially at fault for injuries. Some states apply pure comparative negligence, and other states apply a modified version that includes a threshold of fault. Those that meet or exceed the threshold are barred from receiving compensation for their injuries. Louisiana is a pure comparative negligence state.
Louisiana’s Pure Comparative Negligence Law
Under Louisiana law, the court will determine the degree or percentage of fault of all people who caused or contributed to another’s injuries, death, or losses, including the plaintiff. The court will also review the comparative fault of anyone involved in an accident that is not named in the lawsuit. After they complete their analysis, they assign a percentage of fault to each party. That percentage dictates the amount of recoverable damages a plaintiff can collect; the court reduces the amount by the plaintiff’s percentage of negligence.
For example, if a drunk driver ran a red light and struck your vehicle, causing an accident, but you were texting on your cell phone when the accident occurred, the court would likely find you partially negligent. Had you not been distracted by your cell phone, you might have been able to slow down before the accident or avoid it altogether. For the purposes of this example, let’s say the court finds you are 15 percent at fault for the accident.
If you filed a personal injury lawsuit seeking $100,000 in damages, you could not collect more than $85,000 under Louisiana law. The court would reduce your award by 15 percent, or $15,000, under Louisiana’s pure comparative negligence rule. Louisiana’s pure comparative negligence law does come with one exception. The court does not reduce damages for a partially negligent plaintiff if another person intentionally caused harm or injury.
Protecting the Value of Your Claim When You are Partly at Fault
If you were partly at fault for a car accident, you should never assume you have no right to compensation. In the worst-case scenario, you can still receive a partial settlement or jury award for your injuries. An experienced Louisiana car accident attorney can review the facts of your case and determine your eligibility to seek compensation for damages.
If you are involved in a car accident, it’s crucial that you take these steps to protect the value of your claim:
- Call 911 immediately so the New Orleans Police Department or other law enforcement come to the scene of the accident to officially investigate your accident. An official police report serves as evidence for your insurance claim and personal injury lawsuit. It can also help minimize your percentage of fault depending on the narrative the reporting police officer provides.
- Do not admit any portion of fault to anyone, including the other driver, the police, an insurance adjuster, your family, or your friends. The other side must prove you were partially at fault for reducing the compensation you should receive. Do not make it easier for them. When the insurance company investigates your accident, they will talk to anyone they can to get information to support their comparative negligence claim.
- File an insurance claim immediately. Contact your insurance carrier as soon as possible to report the accident. It’s best to file a claim within 24 hours. If you wait too long, you risk your carrier denying your claim.
- Don’t post on social media. Investigators for the other side will attempt to gain access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to review your posts. They could use seemingly harmless posts and photos as a way to devalue your claim. It’s best to refrain from posting until your car accident case is resolved.
- Consult with an experienced attorney who can help you get the best outcome for your claim. Lawyers handle communications with insurance carriers, protecting you from saying anything they could use to devalue your claim. Additionally, car accident attorneys have experience dealing with auto insurance adjusters and know how to negotiate claims to get better outcomes for their clients.
Get the Legal Help You Need from Charbonnet Law Firm
Insurance companies take every measure possible to devalue a claim. This includes using a comparative negligence defense against a plaintiff who is partially at fault for a car accident. If the court finds you are partially at fault for your car accident, you face receiving less compensation for your injuries. Protect your rights and the value of your claim by hiring an experienced car accident attorney to guide you through the claims process and help you file a personal injury lawsuit, if necessary. A lawyer can fight to minimize your percentage of negligence and give you the best chances of receiving maximum compensation for your car accident injuries.
The skilled car accident lawyers at Charbonnet Law Firm have extensive experience representing clients who have been injured in car accidents in New Orleans and the surrounding area. We understand the challenges that come in the aftermath of a car accident, and we are here to help. Contact us today online or call (504)294-2094 to discuss the details of your car accident, your injuries, the ways you might be partially at fault, and the best strategy to face a potential comparative negligence defense from the other side.