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How Does Partial Responsibility Work in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?


Although injuries resulting from accidents are usually unintentional, and perhaps no harm was intended, the person who caused the accident should still be held responsible. Unfortunately, the issue of responsibility and liability is not always clear-cut. Liability might come down to a single person’s negligence or be divided amongst multiple parties.

Sometimes, responsibility for personal injuries can be squarely placed upon the shoulders of one individual. Other times, multiple people might share varying degrees of responsibility. It is important to speak with a personal injury lawyer about your case to determine who should be held liable for your injuries.

Plaintiffs sometimes share responsibility for the accident and might see their damages and compensation reduced. In some states, plaintiffs sharing any degree of partial responsibility are barred from recovering any damages.

Determining Who is Liable in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Figuring out who is responsible varies based on the nature of the accident. For example, you might determine liability based on traffic violations in a car accident case. If the other driver in your case committed a traffic violation when the accident happened, there is a good chance the accident resulted from the violation. A car accident lawyer can help you investigate the crash to determine who is responsible.

In other cases, responsibility might be determined based on property ownership. Suppose you fell down the stairs in someone’s home because their staircase was damaged, and the owner of the home did not warn you about the stairs or make efforts to repair the damage. In that case, the homeowner can be held liable simply because they own the premises where the accident happened.

Determining liability is rarely easy and might require some investigation from you, your attorney and possibly law enforcement.

When People Share Liability in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

One example of multiple parties sharing responsibility is a multi-car accident. Suppose you are stopped at a red light at an intersection when a second vehicle rear-ends you and pushes you into the middle of the intersection. Next, suppose a third vehicle is coming from a different direction at a high rate of speed and T-bones you in the intersection.

In the scenario, both other drivers might share responsibility. The first driver is responsible for rear-ending you because they failed to stop at the light. The second car might also be responsible if they could not stop in time because they were unlawfully speeding. A qualified personal injury attorney in Alpharetta can help determine who is liable and how to prove it.

Another possibility is that the plaintiff is partially responsible. For example, suppose the plaintiff did not have working brake lights in the above multi-car accident example. In that case, their negligence might be considered a contributing factor to the accident, and they might be partially responsible.

How Partial Responsibility Affects Damages in a Personal Injury Case

In many states, courts follow a comparative negligence rule, while other states adhere to contributory negligence rules. You should talk to an attorney about whether you might be partially responsible for your injuries and, if so, how to deal with that factor in a trial.

Under a comparative negligence rule, the plaintiff’s damages and compensation are reduced in proportion to their share of the blame for the accident. So, if you were in a car accident and the court deemed you 20% responsible for the crash, your total damages would be reduced by 20%.

A modified comparative negligence rule works similarly but with a very important limitation. You are barred from recovering anything if you are more than 50% responsible for the accident. A pure comparative negligence rule does not have such a limitation. Under a pure comparative negligence rule, you could still sue even if you are 90% responsible.

Contributory negligence is a much stricter rule. Under this rule, a plaintiff deemed partially responsible, even in the slightest, is barred from recovering any damages. Even someone deemed 1% responsible cannot recover anything. This rule is far less popular and exists in only a small number of states.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You

Partial responsibility in personal injury cases is often a tough subject for plaintiffs to tackle on their own. While nobody wants to face the possibility that they might have contributed to their accident and injuries, it is a necessary conversation to have with an experienced attorney. Your lawyer can still help you fight for fair compensation and file an injury claim even if you are partially responsible.