Can I File an Injury Claim if a Car Accident Was My Fault?

Thousands of car accidents happen in the United States every day, and drivers injured in these accidents may wonder how to pay for their damages. If another driver causes an accident, an injured driver can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover his or her losses. However, an at-fault driver may also wonder if he or she has grounds for any recovery. Liability for car accidents can be difficult to determine in some cases, and other factors may influence an at-fault driver’s right to recovery.

State Fault Laws

Most states use a fault-based system for handling car accidents. In a fault-based state, insurance coverage and a driver’s right to sue depend on who is at fault for an accident. Plaintiffs in fault-based states can pursue civil claims against at-fault drivers to cover the damages beyond what insurance covers. In a no-fault state, an injured driver would typically file a claim against his or her own insurance policy for the damages, and fault would only come into play if the accident resulted in catastrophic damages or otherwise met the no-fault state’s criteria for filing a personal injury claim.

No-fault states include Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, and Utah. An injured driver in these states would need to rely on his or her own insurance coverage after an accident, or he or she would have to prove that an accident meets the state’s requirements for a personal injury claim. In fault-based states, injured drivers should reach out to reliable personal injury attorneys after accidents to determine their best options for legal recourse against at-fault drivers.

Comparative and Contributory Negligence

Fault-based states may also follow comparative negligence laws that limit plaintiffs’ recovery after accidents they partially cause. In a modified comparative negligence state, the plaintiff can only recover damages if his or her fault is less than the defendant’s. The plaintiff loses a portion of the case award or settlement equal to his or her fault percentage. For example, in a $50,000 lawsuit in which the plaintiff was 10% at fault, the plaintiff loses 10% of the case award for a net award of $45,000 instead.

States that follow contributory negligence laws that bar a plaintiff from recovering any compensation from a defendant if the plaintiff was in any way responsible for the claimed damages. An at-fault driver has no grounds for a personal injury claim in a contributory negligence state. Some states, like California, follow pure comparative negligence laws that allow a plaintiff to recover compensation even if he or she was 99% at fault for the accident. The plaintiff simply loses a portion of the case award equal to his or her fault.

Is It Worth Pursuing a Lawsuit If I Was at Fault?

Without knowing the specific details of the accident, there is no way to tell whether an at-fault driver should pursue legal action for an accident. An at-fault driver may have experienced significant damages and believe that another driver is liable for an accident, and only a thorough investigation can uncover the truth.

An at-fault driver in a state with a fault-based system for car accidents and a comparative negligence law may find that pursuing legal action is worth the trouble, especially if he or she can prove that another driver is more liable for the resulting damages. If you recently caused an accident, or you believe that another driver has unfairly claimed you as responsible for his or her damages after an accident, reach out to an experienced car accident attorney in your area and request a consultation to discuss your options. An attorney can help you determine your potential liability for an accident and inform you as to your chances of recovering your losses.