Understanding Shared Fault Laws

Car with its windshield completely damaged in a crash.

A serious car accident can leave you physically hurt, emotionally traumatized, and financially broken. If you were partially at fault for the crash, you may be wondering whether you have any legal recourse for compensation.

In this article, we will consider the comparative negligence laws in Arkansas and how they impact vehicle accident claims. We will then discuss how a personal injury attorney can assist you in establishing the facts of your case in order to recover damages.

The Arkansas’ Comparative Negligence Rule Explained

The concept of comparative negligence acknowledges that accidents are often the result of careless actions taken by multiple parties. For instance, perhaps you were involved in an accident where the other driver ran a red light, but you were speeding at the time. Thus, you may each bear some responsibility for what happened.

Different states have different shared fault rules. When determining liability in vehicle accident cases, contributory negligence, pure comparative fault, and modified comparative negligence rules are used throughout the US.

Arkansas uses the modified comparative negligence system. Under this law, you may be able to file an insurance claim and receive a reduced amount of compensation from the other driver, even if you share some degree of responsibility for the traffic accident.

In accordance with the comparative fault rule, percentages of liability are assigned to each driver who contributed to the car crash. As long as you are found to be less than 50 percent at fault for the accident, you may seek damages from the other parties involved.

Examples of Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases

Any time you use the roads as a driver, motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, or passenger, you have an obligation to exercise reasonable care to protect yourself and others. If you fail to act as a reasonably careful person would under similar circumstances, you may be found negligent and thus partially at fault in the event of an accident.

Negligent behaviors that may cause you to share fault for an accident include the following:

  • Speeding or failing to adapt your driving to poor weather or road conditions
  • Driving a vehicle that you know has not been properly maintained and has defective parts, such as failing brakes or headlights not working
  • A driver or passenger who sustained injuries in the car crash but had failed to wear a seat belt
  • Choosing to ride as a passenger with a driver that you know is intoxicated, reckless, or otherwise unfit to drive
  • As a passenger, interfering with the driver’s operation of the car or purposely distracting the driver’s attention from the road
  • As a pedestrian, failing to use crosswalks or properly yield to passing vehicles

Such careless actions may contribute to an accident or its severity. In the aftermath of a vehicle collision, determining the percentage of fault each driver shares is a critical step in pursuing fair compensation.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help After a Shared Fault Accident in Arkansas

Car accident claims in which fault is attributed to more than one person can be complicated. Oftentimes, the degree of comparative negligence is fiercely disputed in personal injury cases. Thus, simply filing an insurance claim after a vehicle accident will not automatically get you the restitution you deserve. 

An experienced car accident attorney is the advocate you need in this difficult situation. He or she will understand the modified comparative fault system. Your lawyer can use his or her legal resources and know-how to firmly establish the fault each party shares and provide sound legal guidance in resolving your case as you pursue compensation.

Explaining your legal rights

Your personal injury lawyer can identify the shared fault rules and relevant personal injury laws related to your accident and help you understand how these may be interpreted within the court system. 

After becoming familiar with your case, your attorney can give you objective advice on how best to proceed with your claim. Once the percentage of fault has been established, your attorney can clarify the type and amount of compensation you are entitled to under the rule of comparative negligence.

The process of resolving a shared fault accident claim is complex and could involve multiple other parties, including lawyers, medical personnel, and insurance adjusters. A well-practiced lawyer knows how to interact with all involved to uphold your legal rights.

Proving the other driver’s degree of negligence and liability

When drivers share fault, successfully pursuing a personal injury case will depend on whether you can firmly establish the degree of liability of the other party. 

A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer will use his or her legal understanding and resources to demonstrate these required elements of negligence:

  • The at-fault party had a legal duty to adhere to a certain standard of conduct
  • The at-fault party breached this duty of care
  • The breach of duty caused your injuries
  • You suffered real damages as a result of your injuries 

Proving negligence is essential if you wish to hold someone else even partially responsible for your losses.

Collecting evidence in support of your claim

Your auto accident claim is only as strong as the evidence you can provide. Further, when your own negligence contributed to the incident, it is critical to gather as much compelling evidence as possible to demonstrate that you were not solely responsible.

An experienced car accident attorney is adept at carrying out thorough investigations after a shared fault collision. He or she will look for any evidence that will prove that you were less than 50 percent responsible for what occurred.

Evidence in your accident case may include:

  • Police reports
  • Accident reports
  • Photos from the accident scene
  • Traffic camera or other video footage 
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Emergency medical reports
  • Medical records related to treatment for your injuries
  • Medical bills or statements related to the car accident
  • Proof of lost wages as a result of having to miss work after the accident

In some cases, personal injury lawyers will consult accident reconstruction experts and other industry professionals to determine how the car crash occurred and how much fault should be attributed to each driver. By gathering such evidence, your attorney will be able to lay a solid foundation on which to pursue a favorable outcome on your behalf.

Determining the value of your auto accident claim

Fair compensation in an accident claim involves more than just medical bills and lost wages. While the accident may not solely be the other party’s fault, it is still important that you consider all relevant factors when assessing the extent of your damages.

Your car accident lawyer can help you gauge the full impact of the accident on your life – taking into account your physical, emotional, and financial losses. By carefully assessing your current damages as well as evaluating what your long-term expenses may be, your attorney will make certain that you seek enough compensation – under Arkansas’ modified comparative negligence rule – to meet your future needs.

Ensuring that your accident claim is brought within the allowed timeframe

When an accident victim fails to file a claim before the statute of limitations expires, he or she relinquishes the right to seek compensation for sustained losses. In Arkansas, the statute of limitations for filing most personal injury claims is 3 years from the date of the accident.

Depending on the circumstances of your vehicle crash, the statute of limitations could be even shorter. In view of this, it is advantageous to retain legal representation as soon as possible after the accident.

Accidents involving comparative negligence rules and shared fault may take longer to sort out than others. By giving your lawyer as much time as possible to prepare your claim, you set yourself up for the likelihood of a more favorable resolution. Your personal injury lawyer can thus gather evidence and organize your claim before any applicable statute of limitations expires.

Negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf

Most vehicle accident claims are handled through insurance companies. However, insurance laws and policies can be complicated. Shared fault accident claims are governed by the local comparative fault systems and can be especially difficult to resolve. 

Additionally, insurance claims adjusters may employ frustrating tactics to deny or delay even valid claims. Insurance companies generally have the upper hand and will attempt to undervalue your claim and lock you into a settlement agreement before you can fully establish the true fault percentage of everyone involved. 

Therefore, it is best not to go it alone when entering insurance negotiations. Dealing with insurance companies without legal backup can result in accepting an unfair degree of blame, resulting in inadequate and unjust compensation.

An experienced attorney, though, can successfully negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. He or she will know the insurance laws that apply to shared fault accident cases and can interpret the provisions of the insurance policy with regard to coverage, exclusions, and limitations. 

With qualified legal representation on your side, you will not be pressured into accepting an unfair settlement – in spite of the modified comparative fault law in Arkansas.

Representing you in court if necessary

In most shared fault cases, insurance negotiations result in an out-of-court settlement. But, if an amicable agreement can not be reached after repeated attempts, the case may go to trial.

Proving your case before a jury and against a team of attorneys representing the insurance company is no easy feat. The other side will likely do all in their power to use the modified comparative negligence rule against you. Therefore, when going to court, it is in your best interests to have seasoned legal counsel backing you up. 

Your accident lawyer will help you file your case and ensure that all necessary documents are submitted within the limited time allowed. After an accident, you should hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. When you do so, he or she has enough time to become familiar with your case and will be prepared to argue on your behalf in court. 

In the end, experienced court representation can ensure a more agreeable outcome and impact the amount of compensation awarded to an accident victim.

Reach Out to Personal Injury Attorneys for the Help You Deserve

Severe auto accidents can leave you suffering physically and shaken emotionally. You may not know how to pursue damages while also recovering from your injuries. Furthermore, if you bear a percentage of fault for the accident, you may not feel confident in the legal recourses available to you. 

We realize that navigating the Arkansas modified comparative fault system can be tricky. However, understanding comparative negligence and how it applies to your situation may open the door for you to recover compensation after the accident. The personal injury attorneys of Minton Law Firm would be pleased to help you through every step of the claims process.

If you find yourself needing to prove that the other driver contributed to the accident, our legal team is ready to put our resources to work on your behalf. We are dedicated to defending the rights of Arkansas car accident and injury victims. 

Why Choose Minton Law Firm to Handle Your Shared Fault Case

As a former insurance adjuster himself, Attorney Justin Minton knows the insurance industry backward and forward. If the insurance company denies your claim or attributes an unreasonable amount of blame to you, he is especially equipped to challenge their decision. He has made sure his legal team members are also ready to handle complications in such cases.

Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, so we do not charge any upfront costs or fees. You only have to pay us if and when your personal injury case is successfully resolved and you get money for your claim. We believe everyone involved in an accident deserves a voice and a chance to make a full financial recovery – even if he or she bears some percentage of fault for what happened.

Call us today at 855-Xadjuster or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss modified comparative negligence in more detail. A member of our legal team is standing by to take your call.

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