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What is Fault?

The terms “negligence” and “breach of duty” are used interchangeably when discussing what constitutes “fault.” In the field of personal injury law, determining who is at fault for an accident is how liability is determined.

One of the first things that needs to be done in a personal injury case is to figure out who is at fault for the accident and the injuries that it caused. In other words, it is necessary to identify the individual or group that is to blame. There are some situations in which more than one person or entity is to blame.

When making a claim for damages, the person who was injured is the one who is required to prove fault. It is necessary for there to be some degree of negligence on the part of the person who is ultimately found to be at fault. The term “negligence” refers to a lack of care that results in injuries.

How Are Liability and Fault Determined?

When someone sustains personal injuries in an accident, it is typically the responsibility of the party’s insurance company to determine who was at fault in the incident. It is the responsibility of the at-fault party’s insurance company to pay for any damages sustained in the event.

If the injured party retains the services of a personal injury attorney, the attorney will conduct their own investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident and come to their own conclusions regarding who is at fault. If the insurance company, the injured party, and the injured party’s attorney are unable to come to an agreement regarding who is responsible for the damages, the injured party may choose to file a claim for personal injury. After that point, the ultimate decision regarding who was at fault will be made by a judge in mediation or a jury at trial.

How to Prove Fault Through Negligence

The majority of claims for personal injuries are filed as a result of negligent actions taken by one or more parties. For a party to be held liable, it is necessary to demonstrate that they were negligent in all four of the following areas:

The Party Owed the Injured Party a Legal Duty of Care: Everyone is required by law to exercise a certain level of caution in order to protect the safety of other people. For instance, every motorist has a responsibility to other motorists, and part of that responsibility is to drive in a manner that is free from danger.

There Was a Violation of That Duty of Care: The person who was injured must be able to provide evidence that the party who was at fault violated their legal obligation.

Carelessness Resulted in Harm: Third, the victim’s claim needs to demonstrate that the alleged negligent behavior of the party at fault was the cause of the victim’s injuries. 

For instance, if a driver is talking on their cell phone while behind the wheel and then causes an accident that results in the other driver suffering from whiplash and a broken leg, the first driver has broken their duty of care to the other driver. They are to blame for the accident that occurred.

Damages Exist: Additionally, the victim must provide evidence of losses brought on by the negligent actions of the at-fault party and the accident they caused. In the aforementioned example, the claim would have to show receipts for the cost of treating the victim’s broken leg and whiplash, in addition to other damages the victim is currently facing.

Other Common Types of Damages

In addition to negligence, there are occasionally additional ways to establish fault, such as:

  • Negligence Per Se
  • Intentional Conduct
  • Strict Liability

The defendant is guilty of negligence per se if they broke a law that was designed to protect the general public from danger, such as going over the speed limit, talking on the phone while driving, or not having a vicious dog properly restrained.

To act in a manner that is intentionally harmful to another person is to be guilty of intentional conduct. It is possible for someone to be at fault even if they did not mean to intentionally cause an accident or injuries; however, in the case of intentional conduct, the defendant engaged in an action with the intention of purposefully causing harm.

It is possible for someone to be found automatically at fault and liable for damages under a strict liability system, even in the absence of evidence of negligence or the intention to cause harm. This is something that typically only comes up in cases involving product liability or cases involving extremely dangerous materials like explosives.

Comparative and Contributory Fault

In some instances involving personal injuries, there may be more than one party to blame for the damages. It’s possible that this counts as either a comparative or a contributory fault.

The concept of comparative fault or comparative negligence refers to situations in which both the defendant and the plaintiff are found to be partially responsible for an accident. In the event that this takes place, each party may be awarded damages proportional to the percentage of fault that they are responsible for. This percentage is decided by a judge.

For instance, if a person is found to be 90% responsible for an accident, the total amount that the other party is awarded for damages will be decreased by 10%. If someone is more than half responsible for an accident, they are not entitled to any compensation for their losses.

When a victim’s injury was partially caused by their own negligence, a legal concept known as contributory fault, also called contributory negligence, may apply. A victim may still be able to recover damages even if they were partially responsible for the injuries they sustained, but the amount of those damages will most likely be reduced in proportion to the victim’s degree of fault.

Contact an Attorney if Your Need Help Proving Fault

If you were involved in an accident and believe it was caused by another person’s negligent actions, you may need the help of an experienced attorney when it comes to proving fault.

The experienced personal injury attorneys at The Brown Firm offer free consultations to accident victims in Georgia and South Carolina. Call 800-529-1441 to speak with our personal injury team today!

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