If you have been seriously injured in a car accident, there are many factors that are taken into consideration in determining a fair and reasonable settlement. Some factors may help add value to your car accident case, while others may serve as a reduction. One major (if not the most important) factor is negligence. Negligence and comparative negligence in personal injury claims in Massachusetts have a substantial impact on the amount of compensation an injured party may receive for injuries and loses.
The Massachusetts personal injury lawyers at Mahaney & Pappas, LLP in Framingham have handled numerous personal injury cases that arise out of car accidents. Our experience and knowledge of the personal injury laws and process offers accident victims the legal representation they deserve to obtain the maximum amount of compensation for injuries suffered in an accident.
The Impact of Negligence in Car Accident Cases
In any personal injury claim or case, before you ever address the injuries or amount of damages sustained in an accident, liability must first be addressed. Liability is determining who is at fault for causing the car accident. Negligence is a legal principle that determines liability in personal injury claims. In legal terms, it is the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation. Essentially, it means carelessness.
The Other Driver’s Negligence
In every motor vehicle accident case, you must establish that the other driver was negligent and that his or her negligence was the cause of your injuries before you can collect compensation. In some claims, negligence is not difficult to determine, and the auto insurance company may accept liability for their insured’s actions. For example, in most rear-end car accidents, the tailing driver will typically be found at fault.
However, in other cases, negligence may be disputed. These are usually accident cases where someone was hit while turning or a crash within an intersection. In those types of crashes, both parties involved sometimes blame each other and it is not as easy to determine who caused the accident. In these situations, the motor vehicle crash report, witnesses and photographs are all useful in establishing who was at fault.
Evidence of negligence is crucial in a personal injury claim. Establishing the other driver was at fault means you can then address and consider your damages and loses. If you are unable to prove the other driver was negligent, you will not be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.
Your Negligence in the Crash
Just as you (the injured party) and your Massachusetts personal injury attorney will be evaluating the other driver’s negligence, their auto insurance company will be doing the same for you. In every motor vehicle crash, your actions will also be considered in determining liability. If your actions contributed to the accident, it will impact your personal injury claim, specifically any potential settlement amount.
As the claimant or plaintiff in a personal injury action, any negligence attributed to you is called contributory or comparative negligence. This is the portion of fault that is assigned to you in the crash. The percentage of fault assigned to you can reduce any possible compensation for your injuries or may prevent you from receiving any compensation all together.
Massachusetts has a modified comparative negligence law. It states, “Contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in any action by any person or legal representative to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or in injury to person or property, if such negligence was not greater than the total amount of negligence attributable to the person or persons against whom recovery is sought, but any damages allowed shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage or death recovery is made.”
In car accident claims with some aspect of contributory negligence, if the claimant or plaintiff is found to have contributed to the crash, but their negligence is less than the other driver, they can still receive compensation. The amount of compensation, however, is reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to the plaintiff.
On the other hand, if the claimant or plaintiff is found to have contributed to causing the crash and the percentage assigned is greater than that of the other driver (e.g., 51% or more), then they will not receive any compensation.
For example, in a personal injury claim arising out of a car accident, if the other driver’s auto insurance company determines that the injured party was 30% at fault for the crash, the value of the claim or any potential settlement would be reduced by 30%. Thus, if the value of a personal injury claim is $50,000, but you were determined to have been 30% negligent, the settlement offer would be $35,000 ($50,000 – 30%). On the other hand, if the plaintiff is found to have been 60% at fault, the auto insurance company would not offer any settlement.
As you can see, negligence can have a substantial impact on your personal injury settlement.
When You Should Consult With An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Just because an auto insurance company finds that you were a certain percentage at fault for the accident doesn’t mean it’s so. This is one of the many tactics that some auto insurance companies use in fighting claims. If they assign a certain percentage of fault to you, you should speak with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney.An experienced accident lawyer can evaluate your case to see if the auto insurance company’s determination of fault is accurate. If it appears the auto insurance company is not fairly determining fault, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit. In that lawsuit, you will be able to conduct discovery to obtain evidence that may establish the other driver was 100% at fault. In a lawsuit, you would seek a jury trial asking the jury to determine the percentage of fault of the parties.