If I am partly at fault for the accident, do I still have a claim?
We commonly handle cases were our client is partly at fault for the accident. Under Maine law, a person who shares some of the responsibility for an accident may still collect compensation from the other party, so long as the other party is mostly to blame. Where fault is shared and the other party is mostly responsible for causing the accident, then your damages will be reduced by the percentage of your responsibility. For example, we recently had a case that ended up with a jury verdict in favor of our client in the amount of $1,000,000. However, because the jury found our client to be 25 percent at fault for the accident, her award was reduced by 25 percent to $750,000.
Determining what percentage of fault to assign to each party is fairly complicated and there is rarely a black and white answer. A general rule of thumb is that the more egregious the actions (or inactions) that contributed to the accident, the greater the share of the responsibility that will be assigned. For example, we had a case several years ago involving a collision that occurred between two vehicles traveling in opposite directions on a two lane road. Our client was going around a curve that was bending to the left when the bag of groceries on the seat beside him started to tip over. He momentarily took his eyes of the road to steady the bag and, when he did, he slightly veered over the centerline of the road into the other lane of travel. Unfortunately, the car that was traveling from the opposite direction was hugging close to the centerline and didn't move over as our client approached. The two cars collided on their left sides.
What might have seemed like a straightforward case of fault on the part of our client turned out the be anything but that when we learned that the other driver had been under the influence of alcohol. Although he was not over the legal limit, our medical expert established that he was nevertheless impaired due to the alcohol and his reaction time delayed. We presented that evidence at trial and demonstrated that if he had not be impaired by alcohol he could have--and likely would have--easily avoided the accident by moving his car over slightly to the right. The jury found that the other driver was 90 percent at fault. Although we were not able to find out from the jury what led them to reach that apportionment of fault, we strongly suspect that they found the other driver's driving while intoxicated to be significantly more egregious that our client taking his eyes off the road to steady his groceries.
In summary, even if you are partly at fault, you may be able to collect compensation for your injuries. The amount you collect will largely be determined by a close examination of each driver's actions and the factors that contributed to those actions.
Feel free to give us a call if the answer to this frequently asked question didn't answer your question or brought some other issue to mind that you would like to speak to us about.