5 Common Defenses Utilized in Motor Vehicle Accident Lawsuits
As an injured plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident lawsuit, your claims may be countered by various defenses. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant may argue that they are not liable for damages on the basis that there is no causal link between their conduct and the injuries at-issue, that you were also negligent, and that there are co-defendants who must share liability, among other arguments.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to sue and recover damages as compensation for your injuries, pursuant to Arizona law. Litigation is rarely straightforward, however, though it may appear to be upon first impression. In many cases, circumstances will enable the defendant to put forth several strong defense arguments that could absolve them of liability, or — at the very least — minimize their potential liabilities. As such, it’s important that you work with an experienced Arizona motor vehicle accident attorney who has a track record of success in handling claims where the defendant was well-positioned to counter the plaintiff’s assertions.
Certain defenses are commonly used by defendants in motor vehicle accident cases to minimize their liability. An experienced injury attorney will almost certainly have encountered these defenses before, and are well-equipped to navigate the barriers they raise to the success of your claims.
Consider the following.
Plaintiff Was Comparatively Negligent
Arizona applies the doctrine of pure comparative negligence — or pure comparative fault. What this essentially means is that the plaintiff may still recover damages even if they are significantly at-fault for their own injuries (up to 99 percent at-fault, in fact). As such, though a negligent defendant cannot necessarily absolve themselves of liability by asserting that the plaintiff also contributed to the injuries, the defendant can minimize their potential damages. For example, if the court finds that you are 50 percent liable for your injuries, then your damage award will be cut in half.
Plaintiff Had a Preexisting Injury or Condition
As a plaintiff, you must have suffered losses as the result of the defendant’s negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct in order to recover damages. If you did not actually suffer new and distinct losses, then you are not entitled to recover damages. It is therefore quite common for defendants to assert that the injured plaintiffs are not entitled to compensation on the basis that they suffered from preexisting injuries or a preexisting condition, and that the accident at-issue did not actually result in any new, distinct injuries. If your symptoms are the same before and after the accident, the defendant may succeed in absolving themselves of liability on this basis.
It’s worth noting, however, that you may still recover damages for the same injury or condition that you suffered from prior to the accident, so long as you can show that the accident aggravated your preexisting injury or condition. For example, if you had a preexisting back injury and the accident caused your pain symptoms to increase and limited your mobility to a greater degree, then you could recover damages for the losses related to such aggravation.
Defendant’s Negligence Did Not Cause Injuries
The mere fact that a defendant was involved in an accident with you — and that the defendant was operating their vehicle negligently at the time of the accident — is not necessarily proof that the defendant’s negligent actions caused your injuries. If the defendant’s negligent actions did not actually cause your injuries, then you cannot hold them liable.
For example, imagine that the defendant was speeding at the time of the accident, when they made a legal lane change and collided with your vehicle. Though the defendant was speeding at the time (and was therefore acting negligently), speeding may not have actually caused or even worsened the accident.
Other Liable Defendants
If there are other potentially liable defendants, the defendant may argue that they should be brought in for the purposes of litigation. The defendant may reasonably argue that they should not be held liable in full for damages that others negligently contributed to. Arizona holds defendants severally liable, not jointly liable — as such, a defendant may only be held liable for the proportion of their total fault contribution in the case at-issue.
Plaintiff Failed to Mitigate Damages
Plaintiffs must act reasonably following their injuries to mitigate their damages to the degree possible. For example, suppose that you are making a wage loss claim as part of your overall damages in a motor vehicle accident lawsuit. You did not work for a full two years after the accident. The record shows that you were offered several jobs, however, and that you would have been in reasonably good health enough to work in those positions had you accepted the positions instead of remaining unemployed. The defendant could argue that you failed to adequately mitigate your damages and that they cannot be held liable for losses that were within your control.