Comparative Fault and Your Personal Injury Case
Every day in Ohio, people are seriously injured by the negligent conduct of others. If you have been in an accident in Ohio due to someone else’s negligence and resulted in you sustaining injuries, you have a right to pursue compensation for your damages. Although “compensation for your injuries” is an idea vilified by the insurance lobby, what it means is seeking payment under an insurance policy.
Ohio law provides that when you are injured due to the negligent actions of another party, that negligent party is responsible for, among other charges, your medical expenses and lost income. That’s why speaking with an experienced and knowledgeable Ohio personal injury attorney will be helpful if you’ve been injured.
According to the CDC, it is estimated that on average 24.8 million people visit a physician’s office each year with unintentional injuries in America. Additionally, it is believed that there are approximately 97.9 million people who visit an emergency room in America each year due to accidental injuries.
Not all ‘accidents’ are one-sided, though. Sometimes multiple people may be at fault – including the injured party. In these situations, comparative fault laws apply, and they dictate how much damages a person can recover. The legal team at The Henry Law Firm is here to help you understand Ohio’s comparative fault laws.
What Is “Fault” in Personal Injury Cases?
If you want to understand the negligence laws that Ohio adheres to, you need to know what fault means in a personal injury claim. In legal terms, fault implies that someone is legally responsible for causing you harm. Usually, the person who harms you does so because of a negligent act (or omission). “Negligence” is simply the failure to act as a reasonable person would.
If someone is found to be at fault for the injuries that you sustained in an accident, they are legally responsible for compensating the damage their negligent actions caused.
The law recognizes that an at-fault party may not be one hundred percent to blame. For example, you could fall in hazardous conditions because you were not paying attention. Or you could get involved in a car crash where both you and another motorist were not obeying the traffic laws. In these situations, the law will allocate fault according to percentages, meaning the property owner may be 75% responsible, and you might be 25% responsible for your fall. Depending on which American state you live in, the allocation of fault will affect your recovery. The two main legal doctrines applied by the state are:
- Modified comparative fault: Most states in America have undertaken this law to include Ohio. If you are found to be partially at fault for the injuries you sustained in an accident, you have a right to obtain compensation. However, there are limits to this law. You cannot claim compensation if you’re found to be more than 50 percent at fault for your injuries. Essentially, the amount of compensation you are entitled to will be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of your fault. So, if a jury finds you to be 20 percent at fault for your accident and the other party 80 percent at fault and your damages equal $10,000, you will be entitled to $8,000 under modified comparative law.
- Pure contributory fault: Some states in America have a contributory fault or contributory negligence system in place. This law states that if you were in any way responsible for your injuries, you aren’t able to hold anyone else accountable for them. For example, if your state follows this law and you are 10 percent at fault, you cannot gain compensation from the person found to be 90 percent at fault. Even if you’re only found to be 1 percent at fault and the other party is 99 percent at fault, you cannot claim compensation regardless of how much you lost in damages.
Types of Claims Affected by Modified Comparative Fault
In Ohio, modified comparative fault applies to all personal injury claims, including slips and falls, medical malpractice, and pedestrian accidents. However, this law also applies to car accidents, dog bites, and wrongful death lawsuits in some instances.
As a personal injury law firm, our job is to prove the other party’s negligence at trial.
Determining “Fault” in Your Case
Your lawyer will determine fault based on several factors, but you must remember that in addition to the various forms of evidence needed to prove fault, you also need to establish the four elements of negligence. A few factors considered when determining fault include:
- Examination of black box data
- Careful analysis of accident and police reports and an investigating officer’s conclusions on who gets cited
- Viewing of videos and photos of the accident scene
- Consulting accident reconstruction data
- Investigation of the circumstances surrounding the accident
- Reviewing of medical records
- Interviewing witnesses
Based on all this (and other) evidence, an insurance company will determine whether it will accept that its insured is legally responsible for your injuries – or deny it. If an insurance company denies fault, your only option is to prove fault through a lawsuit.
Four Elements of Negligence
You and your attorney should know four elements to prove negligence. If you can prove each of these elements, you are more likely to achieve a favorable case outcome and the compensation you deserve.
- You need first to prove that the person who caused your injuries owed you a duty of care. Depending on your incident, this might be clear. For example, all motorists owe one another a duty of safe operation on the roadway.
- After proving that you were owed a duty of care, you need to prove that this duty was breached. You have to be able to prove that the duty of care owed to you was breached through one’s actions or failure to act.
- Once you have proved that the duty owed to you was breached, you need to prove causation – which is the connection between your accident and their breach of duty. For example, did you break your leg in the car crash itself, or was it damaged before the car crash?
- Lastly, you need to prove that you suffered losses due to the accident you were involved in. Some of the losses include your loss of income, pain and suffering, and medical expenses. In addition to proving that you suffered a loss, you will have to prove the amount of your loss – meaning how much money it will take to repay you for your injuries fully.
Turn to a Personal Injury Attorney to Discuss Fault in Your Lawsuit
The Henry Law Firm legal team has a detailed understanding of the modified comparative fault laws governing Ohio personal injury claims. Our thorough knowledge of this law will ensure your case is handled justly and that you receive fair compensation.
We have helped many of our Ohio clients obtain the justice they deserve during their personal injury lawsuits. Should you like to attend a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your personal injury claim, you can contact us today.