In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and personal injury cases, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Proving Negligence and Fault In An Accident
Today, we’re going to discuss some general rules that can assist you in proving negligence or who is at fault in an accident.
We all wish it could be a simple matter to prove who was at fault for your accident, whether it is medical malpractice, an automobile accident, or a slip and fall case. However, this task is rarely easy. In order for an entity or individual to pay for the injuries you have suffered, you are required to prove in a court of law who the liable, or responsible, party is. Proving fault often involves simple common sense; however, there are times when it will require complex analysis.
Establishing Legal Liability
With the majority of accidents, there will be a single party who is liable for the injuries incurred. New Hampshire state law utilizes a simple principle to determine liability: If an individual involved in an accident exercised less caution than another, then the individual who was less careful must pay for, either wholly or partially, for the damages and injuries suffered by the more cautious person.
There are several simple, practical rules that are applicable to this legal concept of liability:
§ In order for an individual to be held liable for an injured victim, a duty of care must have existed between the two parties. For example, if the victim was in a location where he or she should not have been, and they were aware of this fact, then the injurious party may not be held legally accountable because he or she did not have a care of duty to keep the victim safe.
§ If the injured victim was partially responsible for the injuries they suffered, such as acting in a reckless manner, then the monetary award they receive for damages and injuries can be reduced by an amount proportional to the percentage that he or she contributed to the cause of the accident.
§ If a negligent person injures another individual while in the employment of another person or party, the employer could be held legally responsible for the injuries the injured party sustained.
§ If a victim suffers injuries that occur while on property that is dangerous or poorly maintained, the property’s owner(s) can be held legally liable because they are responsible for the safe upkeep and maintenance of the property.
§ If an injury occurs because of a defective or poorly made product, the seller and maker of the product could be held liable to the injured party because it is not the victim’s job to determine whether or not a defect exists in a product.
When More Than One Person Is at Fault…
The task of proving fault becomes considerably more complicated when more than one party could be held legally liable for a victim’s injuries. In fact, if more than one individual acted negligently or can be held at fault, it can increase a victim’s chances of recovering a significant amount of damages. In many states, if the injured victim is capable of proving that more than one party were responsible for their damages and injuries, then current law states that all negligent parties are responsible for the entirety of the victim’s injuries. For example, if four careless motorists are responsible for a pedestrian’s injuries in an accident, then these four motorists and their insurance providers must decide amongst themselves how the damages will be apportioned.
There exists one primary advantage to an injured victim with regards to this particular rule – he or she can choose from whom they wish to collect damages. In the aforementioned example, let’s say it is determined that the injured pedestrian is entitled to collect $20,000.00 for their pain and suffering and injuries. The victim can choose from whom they would like to collect the damages. If only one of the four motorists is insured, then that motorist will most likely be chosen by the victim. The responsibility for figuring out how to collect from the other motorists involved is placed on the shoulders of the insured motorist’s insurance company. The insurance firm is legally required to pay the entire $20,000.00 sum.
Comparative Negligence & Partial Responsibility
There are specific situations and circumstances in which it is hard to determine that another person or motorist was wholly responsible for the injuries a victim suffered. With automobile accidents, the other motorist and the victim will, often times, both be partially responsible for the collision. In these scenarios, a principle referred to as comparative negligence is utilized. Under the tenants of this rule, blame is divided between each driver in percentage amounts, and any monetary awards are accordingly reduced.
Let’s use the following example to illustrate our point:
Frank is involved in an auto accident with Bob. Frank suffered injuries in the accident, and the compensation award he received for his pain and suffering and injuries amounted to $10,000.00. However, many are questioning whether or not Bob was solely responsible for the accident. Subsequent investigation determines that Frank was driving too slowly on a busy highway, and his actions are considered unsafe. Because of his negligent behavior, it is determined that he is 25% responsible for the auto accident. Because of this calculation, Frank’s monetary award amount is reduced by 25% to $7,500.00.
In nature, comparative fault calculations are mathematical in nature; however, there is not a single concrete formula that insurance providers use when it comes to determining fault. Calculating the amount of blame that can be placed upon a victim will often boil down to negotiations. A claims adjustor for an insurance provider will present a victim with a percentage, and the victim can either accept this percentage or reject it with arguments for why it should be higher.
The Benefits of Legal Representation
One thing should be very clear: insurance providers are in the business of saving money. Their initial settlement offer might seem adequate at first, but severe injuries often require ongoing care and medical treatment. Once the money from an accepted settlement runs out, that’s it. Any additional medical expenses or out of pocket costs become the responsibility of the victim and their family members. A victim cannot request additional compensation from an insurance company.
For this reason, it is imperative for the victim of an accident to employ the services of a skilled and experienced New Hampshire personal injury attorney. For a free consultation regarding your accident, please contact our law firm today.
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This site does not constitute legal advice. An attorney client relationship is formed only after an agreement is entered into between an Attorney of Liberty Legal and a client is reached. Past results do not guarantee future results.
Disclaimer: Some cases are referred to other law firms with consent of client.
Liberty Legal Services PLLC. Main office: 250 Commercial St #3020 Manchester NH 03101. (603) 262-3196