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Comparative fault may reduce damages awarded

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2023 | Personal Injury

When a car accident involving multiple parties occurs, involved parties may want to blame the accident on anyone but themselves. However, it is not uncommon for multiple parties to be at fault for an Alaskan accident.

In Alaska and other states with “pure comparative negligence laws,” a party may recover damages even if they are partially responsible for their own accident, as long as they are not 100 percent at fault.

How is fault determined?

A judge or jury will first determine how fault for the accident should be attributed among the parties based on the evidence presented. This evidence may include testimony from accident reconstructionists and other expert witnesses, a police report created by an officer at the scene of the accident, and testimony from eyewitnesses.

For example, in a two-vehicle collision at an intersection, the driver of one vehicle may be 30 percent at-fault for failing to keep a proper lookout, while the driver of the other vehicle may be 70 percent at-fault for failing to yield the right-of-way.

Drivers are not the only parties who may be found liable for an accident. For example, if an employee gets into an accident while driving their employer’s vehicle, while within the scope of their employment, the employer may be vicariously liable for the employee’s negligent driving under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. The employer may also be liable for negligently hiring the employee or negligently failing to supervise them.

Therefore, while the employee driver may be 80 percent at fault for the accident for negligently operating the vehicle, their employer may be 20 percent at fault for negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and/or vicarious liability.

How does fault impact an award of damages?

In addition to determining fault, the judge or jury may award compensation for a victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages relating to the accident.

The amount in damages awarded will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to that party. For example, in the above example, if the driver who was found 30 percent at-fault was awarded $100,000, their final award would be reduced by 30 percent, leaving them with $70,000.

If you are being sued after an accident, you may use comparative negligence as part of your defense strategy. A personal injury lawyer can help you defend yourself in court by attributing fault to other parties.