Comparative Negligence – How Shared Fault Changes an Injury Claim
Last Updated on September 25,2023
Although there are occasions when one party is clearly responsible for causing an accident, and there is no question as to who is liable for the damages, it is often the case that more than one party in an accident has some responsibility for making it happen. At times even those who are injured in the accident will be found to be at least partly at fault for causing it.
The law in Nevada – as in many other states – takes a moderate approach and does not bar all injury claims by persons who have some fault for causing their injuries. But an injured party must not be primarily at fault and will not be able to collect compensation for the portion of liability they are found to have.
Comparative Negligence Laws
Comparative negligence laws address how much liability an injured claimant can have for causing their own injuries and still be able to seek recovery from the other responsible parties. There are three different approaches used by states to compare the negligence of parties involved in an accident.
- Pure comparative negligence – States that allow pure comparative negligence let an injured party recover as long as any other person contributed to the accident – even if by only 1%.
- Modified 50% comparative negligence – An injured party must be less than 50% responsible for an accident in order to recover.
- Modified 51% comparative negligence – An injured party can be up to 50% responsible for an accident and still seek recovery.
Nevada follows the 51% rule allowing injured claimants to recover for their losses as long as their liability does not exceed the liability of the other responsible parties.
What it Means to be Negligent in Nevada
Negligence is the failure to properly anticipate the consequences of behaviors that end up causing injury or damage to others. The law places duties on people to conduct themselves in the manner considered by most people to be reasonable under similar circumstances.
When accidents occur, the behavior of all persons involved will be scrutinized to determine
who did what and who did not do what should have been done.
Duties Imposed on Drivers
Driving a motor vehicle is one of the most dangerous things many people do every day. To enjoy the privilege of driving, drivers are expected to follow the rules and prioritize safety.
Some of the duties imposed on drivers in Nevada include the following rules of the road:
- Drivers are to drive at reasonable and appropriate speeds for the road conditions at the time of driving, even though the posted speed limit may be higher.
- Hand-held cell phone use while driving is prohibited.
- Motorists must give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing.
- Drivers must not follow other drivers more closely than is reasonable given the driving conditions.
- Drivers going under the posted speed limit must move out of the left lane and yield to faster-moving vehicles.
How Negligence is Determined after a Car Accident
One of the first things people do after a car accident is to call their insurance company. And one of the first issues that any insurance company will want to resolve is who was at fault for the accident.
Insurance companies will review police or accident reports and contact persons involved in the accident or who witnessed what happened. They will likely view the damage to the vehicles and may visit the accident scene. After gathering the relevant evidence, an insurer might assert there is comparative negligence on the part of the person claiming damages.
An insurance company is usually at an advantage when investigating a claim and negotiating a settlement due to greater resources and experience handling claims. A claimant who disputes an insurance company’s fault determination may have a hard time proving that they are less responsible for causing the accident.
Why Insurance Companies Hope to Find Comparative Negligence
Despite accepting premium payments and promising to pay when accidents occur, insurance companies are in business to make money, and limiting claims payments helps the bottom line.
The more comparative negligence that can be attributed to the actions of an injured claimant, the less money an insurance company will have to pay out toward the claimant’s injuries.
Unless an injured claimant is able to present convincing evidence to the contrary, the insurance company’s determination of comparative negligence will proportionately reduce any payment made for the claimed injuries.
How Does Comparative Negligence Affect an Injury Claim Involving an Uninsured Motorist?
Nevada has a moderate amount of uninsured drivers compared to the rest of the United States. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Nevada ranks 32nd in the nation, with just over 10% of its drivers uninsured. Auto insurers in Nevada are required to offer uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, but drivers are not required to purchase it.
Uninsured motorist coverage applies when an at-fault motorist is either not insured or does not have adequate insurance to cover all of the damages from an accident. An injured insured ends up having to prove their claim to their own insurance company in order to recover damages. If the insurance company finds comparative negligence on the part of its own insured, any compensation awarded will be reduced according to the insured’s percentage of liability.
Why the Right Attorney Can Make a Huge Difference When Comparative Negligence is an Issue
The more fault an injured claimant is found to have for causing an accident, the smaller the amount of compensation the claimant can recover. The determination of how much fault any party has is always based on an analysis of all the facts surrounding an accident.
In some accidents, the negligence of a party might lead to fatal consequences. When such tragedies occur, the affected families have the right to pursue a wrongful death settlement. Understanding the intricacies of such claims is crucial to ensure justice for the deceased and their loved ones.
Knowing what facts are important, gathering all the relevant evidence, and presenting the information in a way that most minimizes a claimant’s responsibility are key to maximizing the amount of compensation available to a claimant.
A competent and experienced personal injury attorney will identify the weaknesses in an insurance company’s assertions and use the evidence to cast doubt on their theory while establishing a credible version of the events favoring a claimant.