Legal jargon is probably the last thing on your mind following a serious motorcycle accident. Unfortunately, your ability to recover damages and be made whole will depend in large part on the whims of the civil justice system. Understanding a few of the technical details that may impact your case can help to prepare you for the legal battle ahead.
Among these details, contributory and comparative negligence are two terms that will significantly impact your final settlement. Keep reading to discover what these terms mean, how they differ, and why retaining an attorney is crucial.
Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence
Several parties will attempt to assign fault following an accident. Both insurance companies will conduct their own separate investigations, and the police will typically assign responsibility as well. If you choose to pursue your case further, then your lawyer will need to establish negligence on the part of the driver that hit you.
A handful of states still assign responsibility for accidents based on the concept of contributory negligence. In these cases, you may be unable to recover damages if the jury finds you to be at all at fault for the accident. If you live in one of these states, it is essential to establish without a doubt that you were not responsible for the accident.
On the other hand, states with comparative negligence rules entitle you to a settlement based on your level of responsibility. If you are found 10% at fault, then you can recover 90% of your damages. In these cases, establishing your degree of fault is critical to get the best settlement possible.
The Importance of Negligence in Motorcycle Accidents
Negligence and responsibility play particularly crucial roles in accidents involving riders. Drivers often claim that they could not see the motorcycle, sometimes resulting in severe injuries to the rider. These cases can be difficult since the defendant's legal counsel may argue that the motorcycle rider was negligent for not making their presence known.
While most states won't flatly refuse to award settlement money in a case where the rider is partially at fault, they may reduce the total compensation. Proving that your responsibility for the accident was limited or non-existent can help to guarantee that you are not denied proper compensation.
The Role of Your Attorney
Because assigning fault is so important, one of the best things you can do for your case is to hire an attorney with experience in motorcycle accidents. Your attorney will put in the legwork to thoroughly investigate your case, building evidence to ensure that fault is assigned correctly. This evidence can help to maximize your out-of-court settlement or to aid you at trial, if necessary.
Because motorcycle accidents can be life-altering, you should never pursue your settlement alone. Working with an attorney, such as Leisawitz Heller, can help you to recover your damages and get your life back on track.