If you were partly responsible for your car accident, you may wonder if you’re still eligible to collect damages. Laws regarding fault vary from state to state, but Louisiana does allow partially at-fault drivers to collect compensation for injuries and property damage.
How States Determine Eligibility for Damages
Every state follows one of two models for determining your eligibility for damages following a car accident: contributory negligence or comparative negligence. Here is a brief look at each:
- Contributory negligence. The basis of the contributory negligence concept is that you have a duty to avoid creating a risk of harm to yourself. When you fail to uphold this duty, you limit your right to receive compensation. For example, in a state following contributory negligence rules, you might not be able to receive compensation following an accident if you contributed to your injuries by failing to carefully look both ways before crossing the street.
- Comparative negligence. The majority of states use a comparative negligence approach when assessing compensation eligibility following a car accident. Under this approach, your percentage of responsibility for the accident affects your ability to recover damages. There are two methods of assessing comparative negligence: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. Under the pure comparative negligence system, your damages are totaled, and the money you receive is reduced to reflect your responsibility for the accident. So, if you were determined to be 25 percent at fault and would have normally received $100,000, you'll be eligible for $75,000 in compensation. A modified comparative negligence system bars you from collecting damages if you are determined to be more than 50 percent at fault. If you are less than 50 percent at fault, you can still receive full compensation despite whatever you did to contribute to the accident.
What System Does Louisiana Use?
Louisiana uses a pure comparative negligence approach, which is also known as comparative fault. This means you can still collect compensation following a traffic accident even if your actions significantly contributed to the collision. Some examples of behavior that might indicate you contributed to the accident include:
- Following too closely
- Running a red light
- Failing to use your turn signals
- Failure to yield
Essentially, Louisiana’s pure comparative negligence system is built to realize that even the best driver is capable of making an honest mistake. Fault is assigned based on the severity of your conduct, recognizing that errors such as driving while intoxicated are much more significant than tailgating or failing to use your turn signal.
How Is Fault Determined?
There is no "magic formula" used to determine percentage of fault. The insurance claims adjuster will evaluate records from the accident and assign fault percentages, which means that fault assessments are somewhat subjective. Often, an experienced attorney can negotiate a lower percentage of fault on your behalf—which will increase your eligibility for compensation.
How to Protect Your Legal Rights
After a car accident, the most important step you can take to protect your legal rights is to avoid speculating as to who is responsible for the accident. Do not talk about the accident with anyone other than your insurance agent, local law enforcement, or your attorney. Stick to the basic facts only, avoiding any statement that could be interpreted as admission of responsibility for the accident.
Even if you believe you were at fault, you could be mistaken. It only takes a few seconds for a collision to occur, and the stress of being involved in an accident can affect your perception of the event. It's best to focus on your recovery and let the claims adjuster and your attorney work out any applicable fault percentage.
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
Minor car accident claims can often be settled without an attorney, but professional assistance is a must if you’re partially responsible for a serious collision. Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's attorneys have assisted hundreds of Louisiana residents in negotiating fair compensation for their accident claims. Please complete our online contact form to learn more.