Proving Fault in Personal Injury Accidents: General Rules

How to decide who is legally at fault for an accident or personal injury.

Determining who is at fault (also known as “liability”) in a personal injury case can be complicated. It is obvious to say that the person or business at fault should pay for any damages, but before that it must be determined who is legally at fault. Oftentimes, this depends on if someone was careless or “negligent”.

Determining Legal Liability

Most accidents happen as a result of someone being careless. The basic rule of thumb in personal injury lawsuits comes down to this: if one person involved in the accident was less careful than the other than the less careful one must pay some or all of the damages incurred.

Legal liability is almost always decided by this rule of carelessness and by one or more of the following situations:

  • If the injured person was somewhere they were not supposed to be the person who caused the accident may not be deemed liable because they were not expected to be careful towards the injured person.
  • If the injured person was also careless the compensation may be lessened since both parties were partially responsible for the accident. This is known as comparative negligence.
  • If a negligent person causes an accident while under the employ of someone else the employer may also be held legally responsible for the accident.
  • If an accident is caused on property deemed to be dangerous because it is poorly built or not properly maintained the owner of the property can be held responsible regardless if he or she actually created the unsafe condition.
  • If an accident is caused by a defective product the manufacturer and seller can both be liable even if the person injured isn’t sure exactly which one is responsible for the defective product or how the defect happened.

When More Than One Person Is At Fault

In most states when there is more than one party at fault, for example a car wreck where multiple parties are deemed to be responsible, any one of the persons can be held responsible for compensating you fully. It is left up the responsible parties to determine whether one should reimburse the other.

This rule can be beneficial because you could choose to hold an insured driver responsible, instead of an uninsured one, and make your claim against them for the full amount. This option will also make it easier if there are multiple insured drivers because you will only have to settle your claim with one of the insurance companies.

How Your Own Carelessness Affects Your Claim

In a case where you are deemed one of many careless parties in an accident, in most states, you can still get at least partial compensation from other parties who were also at fault. The amount is determined by comparing both sides carelessness and figuring out a percentage of liability. This percentage of liability results in the percent of damages to be paid. This rule is referred to as comparative negligence.

Read more here: