What Is Comparative Fault?
When it comes to car accidents, things are rarely straightforward. When you first get into an accident, it is easy to assume that it was either entirely your fault or entirely the other driver’s fault. But car accidents are often the fault of more than one driver. For example, you may have been driving a little fast for the weather conditions, but the other driver involved in the accident made the reckless choice to pull into your lane without double-checking their blind spot.
In this situation, it may be difficult to determine who is responsible for the accident. If the fault had to be placed on a single party, then the proceeding lawsuit would not make for an accurate reflection of the accident in question. By collecting evidence about the car accident, a case can be made to show who is at fault.
If you say fault for your car accident, then you can still recover damages through a lawsuit thanks to Louisiana’s comparative fault laws. Say you are found to be 20% at fault while the other driver is found to be 80% at fault.
Say you are asking for $100,000 but are found to be 20% responsible for the accident. You can’t recover damages for the amount you were at fault for. This would mean that in this scenario, you could recover $80,000.
Say the table is flipped, and you were responsible for 80% of the accident. You could still be awarded damages, but they would be reduced by 80%. In addition to being awarded fewer damages, it is unwise to pursue a lawsuit where you are almost entirely to blame, as it can leave you vulnerable to counter lawsuits.
How Does Comparative Fault Work in a Louisiana Car Accident Lawsuit?
Comparative fault is a shockingly straightforward system. The whole idea is to determine each person’s fault. By comparing the fault, it can be determined how much you could receive in damages.
So in order for this system to work, there has to be some way of determining fault. We’ll get into the mechanics of this in a moment. Once each party’s fault is determined, it will be represented by a percentage. If you are found to be 0% at fault, you can receive 100% of any awarded compensation. If you are found to be even 1% responsible, then the maximum amount of compensation you can receive will be affected. Your fault and the amount of compensation you can receive are in an inverse relationship with each other.
While the system is straightforward, it doesn’t make car accident lawsuits any easier. You still must prove that the other party acted in a negligent manner leading to an accident, that you were injured, and that your injury was directly related to the accident. Meanwhile, the other party is going to do their best to argue that you hold more responsibility for the accident than they do. If they are successful in this tactic, you could end up getting a lot less money than you deserve.
How Is Fault Determined?
Determining fault is definitely the most confusing part of comparative fault. Yet it is also the most important point since it will be what ultimately determines how much of the awarded damages actually have to be paid.
Some laws have very rigidly defined steps for determining something like fault, but this isn’t the case when it comes to comparative fault cases. When comparative fault comes into play, pretty much everything rides on the discretion of the judge. It is up to the judge to use their wisdom and the evidence and testimony put before them to determine what percentage of fault each party holds.
This may be good news to some, as rigid guidelines can often lead to disappointment and frustration. But it can also be bad news because it means that what happens in the courtroom is vital. If you aren’t prepared for the courtroom to be a battleground, then it is easy to watch your potential compensation whittle down to nothing.
The best way to prove who was at fault for an accident is to collect evidence to build a compelling argument as to why the other party is primarily to blame and why you aren’t to blame.
Of course, even in a comparative fault state like Louisiana, there will always be accidents that are clear and straightforward. There are always accidents where one side holds all of the fault. For example, if the other driver is found to be drunk, then it is a safe bet that they will be the one at fault.
What Evidence Is Used to Prove Fault?
In movies and TV shows, evidence is always photos or videos, things that you can look at. This works for the visual medium, and photos and videos can be some of the most compelling evidence in any case, but there are many of different kinds of evidence that you could and should be looking to gather.
Evidence used to prove fault for a car accident in Louisiana includes (but is not limited to) the following:
- Medical records can prove injuries but also suggest things about the speed the vehicles must have been going.
- Weather reports help to show the conditions on the day and at the time of the accident.
- Witness statements that show the other driver was distracted.
- The damage that was done to the vehicles
- Maps can be important when the bends or forks in the road play into the accident.
- Police reports are best for showing off what the officers that responded noted at the scene, even if it isn’t evidence of who was at fault.
Can an Attorney Help Me Prove Fault?
If you were in a car accident and are considering a lawsuit, it is best to work with an experienced car accident attorney who will be able to help you prepare by gathering evidence, building a strong argument, and answering any questions you have about the whole experience.