Personal Injury Lawyers
Attorney Van O'Steen

Law Weighs Degree of Accident Damage and Personal Responsibility

Van O'Steen

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Most things in life are neither black nor white; they are some shade of gray.

The question of who was at fault in an accident is no exception.  Very often, each of the drivers in a two-car collision shoulders some of the responsibility for the mishap, particularly intersection collisions.  One of them may have been more careless than the other, but both contributed.

A store owner who allows a slippery substance to remain on his floor is negligent.  A customer who slips on the substance may have been careless in not watching where he was stepping.

Under the old law in Arizona, an injured party would not be compensated for his damages or injuries if he or she was even slightly at fault, even though the other party may have been 90 percent at fault.

The harshness of that rule was later modified to allow juries some latitude in deciding whether an injured party should be compensated in spite of some responsibility on his part for the accident.

The decision, however, was generally an all-or-none situation.  The injured person recovered all of his loss or he recovered none of it.  The law discourages compromised decisions.

Now, the law in Arizona rejects the black-and-white dichotomy of fault in accidents and allows a jury to decide what weight to give an injured person’s degree of carelessness.  Most importantly, the jury can assign percentages of responsibility to all parties in an accident and allow each to recover his or her injury against the other in proportion to respective fault.

In other words, if one automobile driver was found to be 20 percent at fault in an accident, he can receive 80 percent compensation for his loss while the other person may receive 20 percent from him.