Many personal injury claims involve one at-fault party, such as a driver, product manufacturer or property owner. However, sometimes there are multiple at-fault parties, including the victim.
Like many states, Ohio allows victims who are partially at fault to recover compensation, provided their percentage of fault is not above a certain threshold. Below, our licensed Cleveland personal injury lawyers discuss Ohio’s comparative negligence law and how it may impact your claim for compensation.
If you were injured by another party’s negligence, we may be able to help you take legal action. While you may be partially at fault, the insurance company may just want you to believe you are partially at fault. That is why you should not simply take the insurance company at its word about your role in the accident.
Comparative Negligence in Ohio
Since 1980, Ohio has had a comparative negligence law (Ohio Revised Code Section 2315.33 Contributory fault effect on right to recover).
The law says the victim’s contributory fault does not bar them from recovering damages that directly and proximately resulted from tortious conduct of one or more people. However, you can not have more contributory fault than the combined tortious conduct of all other persons from whom you are seeking compensation.
What that means is you cannot be more than 50 percent responsible for the accident that caused your injury and still recover compensation. If you are 50 percent or less at fault, you may still recover, however, your compensation award will be reduced based on your percentage of fault. That means if you are 10 percent at fault, your compensation award would also be reduced by 10 percent.
The passing of this law was a huge benefit to injured victims. Before this law was passed, victims were barred from recovering any compensation if they were even one percent at fault for an accident.
Common Reasons Why Victims May be At Fault
There are a wide variety of reasons why injury victims may be partially at fault for the accident that caused their injuries.
However, it is important to first understand how fault can be assigned. Most personal injury claims are based on the legal concept of negligence. There are four elements of negligence:
- Existence of a duty of care, which is a legal obligation to take reasonable care to prevent an injury
- Breach of the duty of care, which is a failure to fulfill a duty of care through careless action or a failure to act
- The breach of the duty of care was a direct cause of the injury that was suffered
- The injury resulted in damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages
If another party breached a duty of care that was owed to you and it resulted in your injury, you would have the basis for a claim against that party. If you breached a duty of care and the breach contributed to your injury, you may be partially at fault.
For instance, if you were injured in a car crash by a driver who violated your right of way, and you were either distracted, speeding, or breaking another traffic law, both you and the driver may be partially to blame.
In another example, if you were injured in a slip and fall accident but it was reasonable to expect you to avoid the area, you may be partially at fault.
Even though drivers are required to yield to pedestrians, whether they are in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, if a pedestrian jumps out into the road, he or she may be partially at fault for crash damages.
Who Determines My Share of Negligence?
Each case is unique, so the details of an accident must be assessed individually to determine liability. As there are many factors to consider, you should discuss the situation with a licensed attorney.
The insurance company would like it if the victim seeking compensation is partially at fault because it reduces the amount of compensation they need to pay to settle the claim.
Unfortunately, insurers may often assign fault even when the victim bears no fault. They may also assign a significant percentage of fault to the victim when it is inaccurate.
The good news is that the insurance company does not have the last word on your percentage of fault.
How an Attorney May Benefit Your Claim
If you hire an attorney who has handled many injury cases and is prepared to go to court, you may have a better chance of recovering full compensation for your damages. Your attorney can build a case to refute any claims the insurance company makes about your percentage of fault.
Research has shown those who hire attorneys often recover more compensation than those who do not. Insurance companies also know which attorneys regularly go to court. When faced with the possibility of going to court, insurers may offer more compensation or reduce the victim’s percentage of fault.
Accident Victims Should Avoid Saying These Things
Victims can help their claims by avoiding saying things that could be construed as admissions of fault. For example, victims should never apologize to the at-fault party or insurance company.
Offhand comments after a car crash, especially to a police officer, could also be interpreted by the insurance company as admissions of fault. For instance, you should avoid saying things like, “I should have been more careful,” or “I was in a rush.” These statements sound like you think you did something wrong.
Have Legal Questions? Call Friedman, Domiano and Smith
Our firm has been committed to helping injury victims in northeast Ohio for decades. We have a proven record of success, having secured millions on behalf of our clients.
We have extensive knowledge of the law and how it applies to injury cases, including the law on partial fault for an accident. We are prepared to manage the legal process on your behalf at no upfront cost to you.
Free consultation. Contact us today for legal assistance: 216-621-0070.
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