Have You Been Injured? We're Ready to Fight for You.

Understanding Comparative Fault

Published on Jun 30, 2016 at 12:47 pm in Auto Accident.

Car accident lawyers are often asked, “What does comparative fault mean?” To answer generally, comparative fault is partial legal defense that can limit the amount of recoverable damages a plaintiff can seek in a claim, based on the degree to which the plaintiff’s acted negligently, contributing to cause the injury.

For example, when an auto accident occurs, in order to determine who is responsible for paying the resulting property and personal injury damages, it must be established which driver is at fault. But as almost any auto accident lawyer may tell you, sometimes it’s not that simple to determine the at-fault party. Often, it’s not one or the other driver; it can be both. (Or, several drivers may be at fault, depending on the circumstances of the accident.)

In a two-car accident, though both drivers may have some degree of responsibility for the auto accident, comparative fault is a term used to determine to what extent each party is at fault. A percentage is used to assign the amount of responsibility. For example, it may be determined that the plaintiff was 40% at fault, and the other driver was 60% at fault. Therefore, the comparative fault of the plaintiff is 40%.

How is comparative fault determined?

In a court of law, an auto accident lawyer may tell the judge and jury that her client was 40% at fault because her client backed his car up and hit a parked vehicle, but the other car owner was 60% at fault because he parked in a no-parking zone, directly behind the vehicle, on a dark night so it was nearly impossible to see or avoid. Ultimately, however, it may be up to the jury to decide the comparative fault of each driver based on testimony from both sides.

An experienced lawyer may perform his or her own investigation into the accident to determine to what extent the other driver or drivers is responsible compared to their client. The opposing counsel may also investigate the accident which is why it’s important to document the events and details immediately following an accident. That information can be introduced into court to help assess how much the other driver was responsible for the accident.

Can both drivers file a claim?

Both drivers can file a claim, but the dollar amount of their settlements will be based on the percentage that the accident was their responsibility. So for example, if the damage total for the plaintiff was $10,000 and a jury found that he was 40% at fault, he would be entitled to up to $6,000, depending on the amount of the total available compensation.

In some areas, additional laws and rules apply to comparative fault determinations. Contact an experienced auto accident lawyer to discuss the details of your case and to determine if comparative fault applies in your car accident.

Free Case Evaluation

At Thomas Law Offices, our personal injury attorneys recognize that our potential clients are likely going through some of the most difficult times of their lives. We don't want you to have to worry about paying out of pocket for legal advice when you're just starting to learn your legal rights and options. That's why we provide free case evaluations. We'll offer our expert advice about your potential case and walk you through how we can help you.

Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

Legal & Firm News

Two Nurses Arrested in Ohio for Nursing Home Resident Neglect

In April 2022, Sunrise Manor nursing home’s director of nursing and assistant nursing director were arrested for allegations of patient neglect. Christina Drake and Jennie Elliott are being investigated following a criminal complaint filed in regard to an incident that occurred in April 2020. The two nursing staff members are facing multiple first-degree misdemeanor charges, […]

Read More

What Injuries Do Unattended Children Most Commonly Suffer?

It is a tragedy when a child is killed or injured in an accident that could have been prevented. Most of the time, it only takes one attentive adult to stop these tragic incidents from happening. The personal injury lawyers at Thomas Law Offices look at what injuries unattended children most commonly suffer and⁠—more importantly—how […]

Read More

What Injuries Can Result From Slamming on the Brakes?

No matter how safely you may drive, you will undoubtedly encounter situations in which you will have to take significant evasive maneuvers to avoid a car accident. While avoiding a motor vehicle crash is virtually always preferable to a collision, there are times when the evasive action can also cause harm.

Read More
Tad Thomas on The National Crime Victim Bar Association
Tad Thomas on AVVO
Tad Thomas on Lawyer Minds
Tad Thomas on American Association for Justice
Southern Trial Lawyers Association
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Ohio Association for Justice
Kentucky Justice Association
Tad Thomas on Attorney at Law Magazine
Tad Thomas on Attorney at Law Magazine
2021 Public Justice Member
AAJ Masters of Trial Law: Champion