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March 18, 2024

Comparative Fault In Multi-Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents are stressful enough on their own. But when multiple vehicles are involved, the aftermath can be a legal nightmare, especially when it comes to determining who’s at fault. That’s where the concept of comparative fault comes into play.

The Basics of Comparative Fault

Comparative fault is a legal principle that aims to fairly distribute responsibility when an accident involves multiple parties who may have all played a role. It moves away from the harsh “all-or-nothing” approach, where even a minor mistake could entirely bar someone from recovering compensation for their injuries. Let’s break down how comparative fault works:

Analyzing the Accident

After an accident, investigators, like police, insurance representatives, and auto injury lawyers, will carefully analyze the circumstances. They’ll look at police reports, witness statements, damage to the vehicles, and potentially things like traffic camera footage or even accident reconstruction. Their goal is to determine how the accident happened and the actions each driver took or failed to take.

Assigning Percentages

Each driver involved will be assigned a percentage of fault that reflects their contribution to causing the accident. This percentage represents their degree of responsibility.

Impact on Compensation

The percentage of fault assigned to you directly impacts the compensation you can potentially recover. Your damages (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) are calculated, but then reduced by your percentage of fault.

Types of Comparative Fault

It’s important to know that different states follow different versions of comparative fault:

  • Pure Comparative Fault: Even if you were significantly at fault (up to 99%), you can still recover some damages. Your total award is simply reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you.
  • Modified Comparative Fault (50% Rule): You can only recover damages if you were less than 50% at fault for causing the accident. Being 50% or more at fault means you are barred from any compensation.
  • Modified Comparative Fault (51% Rule): This system is similar to the 50% rule, but slightly stricter. You can only recover damages if your fault is 50% or less. If you are found to be 51% or more at fault, you cannot receive compensation.

Unlike most other states, Maryland still adheres to a strict legal doctrine called “contributory negligence.” This rule has one major consequence: if you are found to be even slightly responsible for the accident (even as little as 1% at fault), you are barred from recovering any compensation for your injuries, regardless of how severe they may be.

How Comparative Fault Affects Your Case

Multi-vehicle accidents require a careful determination of each driver’s degree of fault. Investigations, involving analysis of the scene, witness statements, and possibly camera footage, will assign fault percentages to everyone involved. Your total damages (medical bills, lost income, etc.) are calculated, but here’s where Maryland differs:  Under contributory negligence, any degree of fault assigned to you, even as little as 1%, can bar you from receiving any compensation.

For example, imagine a three-car accident where you were rear-ended but found to be slightly exceeding the speed limit. Even if the other driver was primarily responsible, your minor infraction could prevent you from recovering any of your $20,000 in damages. This underscores how Maryland’s laws make multi-vehicle accident cases particularly complex and why having an experienced personal injury attorney in Silver Spring is crucial to protect your rights.

Why You Need an Attorney on Your Side

Multi-vehicle accidents are inherently complex, and navigating the legal aftermath to secure the compensation you deserve can be incredibly stressful, especially if you’re injured.  An experienced personal injury attorney has the knowledge and resources to make a significant difference in your case. They can:

  • Prove the degree of fault: Your car accident attorney in Silver Spring will meticulously gather evidence and build persuasive arguments to establish the full extent of each driver’s responsibility, working to minimize your assigned percentage of fault.
  • Protect your rights under Maryland law: Maryland’s contributory negligence laws add a layer of complexity. Your attorney will carefully analyze every detail to protect your rights and explore potential avenues for compensation, even when fault may be assigned to you.
  • Negotiate skillfully: Insurance companies are focused on minimizing payouts. Your attorney will advocate strongly on your behalf, negotiating for a fair settlement that reflects the true extent of your damages.

Don’t navigate the complexities of a multi-vehicle accident alone. The personal injury attorneys at Montero Law Group, LLC have a deep understanding of Maryland’s contributory negligence laws and how to best apply comparative fault concepts. Let us help you build a strong case to maximize your compensation. Contact us today for a consultation.