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How a Victim’s Negligence Affects Car Accident Claims

Car accidents continue to rank among the top causes of accidental death in the US, leading to significant consequences for those injured, their families, and the surviving loved ones of deceased victims. Fortunately, there are personal injury laws in every US state that allow individuals to seek compensation from the responsible driver. By proving that the other motorist breached the legal duty to exercise reasonable care when driving, you may be entitled to monetary damages for your physical, financial, and emotional losses.

However, the other driver’s careless actions are not the end of the inquiry in an auto crash case. All US states have laws regarding contributory or comparative negligence by the victim, which can bar or reduce your compensation depending on the jurisdiction. When the focus is on how your acts may have led to a collision, it is essential to retain a car accident lawyer who will protect your rights. An overview may help you understand the basics.

Victim Negligence in Auto Crash Claims

Most motor vehicle collisions follow a negligence theory of liability, which means you need to prove four essential elements:

  • The other motorist had a duty to exercise reasonable care;
  • This person breached the legal duty by engaging in careless conduct;
  • The breach of duty was the direct cause of the accident; and,
  • You suffered losses because of being hurt.

However, even if you have solid facts with respect to these elements, your own negligent acts are also at issue in a car accident claim. The impact of your carelessness depends upon whether you are in a jurisdiction that follows contributory or comparative negligence rules.

Contributory and Comparative Negligence Explained

The two concepts are similar in that they shine a spotlight on your conduct. In a contributory negligence state, you are completely barred from recovering any compensation if you were even slightly at fault in causing the crash. This law applies in Alabama, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. All other US states follow the general rule of comparative negligence, in which your monetary damages are reduced. The reduction is based upon the percentage of fault attributable to you.

How an Auto Collision Attorney can Help

Both contributory and comparative negligence can have harsh implications, which is why you benefit from having an experienced lawyer on your side. There are some exceptions to contributory negligence, including the last clear chance doctrine and gross negligence by the responsible driver. In a state that follows comparative negligence principles, your attorney can support your case by gathering evidence to disprove your negligence, such as through:

  • Witness statements;
  • Both vehicle’s event data recorders;
  • Surveillance video footage;
  • Damage to vehicles; and,
  • Many other sources.
Talk to a Car Accident Attorney About Your Rights

This information is useful as an overview of contributory negligence, but you need more than a summary of the legal concepts to get the compensation you deserve as the victim of an auto crash. You put your rights at risk when faced with allegations that you caused the collision, so contact an experienced car accident lawyer right away to set up a consultation.

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