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What Happens When Both Drivers Are At Fault For A Car Crash?

Ohio's Comparative Fault Law

Under Ohio law, what happens when a person injured in a car crash is also at fault partially for that crash? Can the partially at fault injured person recover money from the other driver for his or her injuries? Like most good attorney-answers, it depends.

Until 1980, if the injured person was at fault to any degree, the injured person could not recover any damages from the other driver. This strict rule is known as the contributory negligence rule. It is no longer the law in most states and is perceived by many as old-fashioned, unreasonable, and unfair.

In 1980, however, Ohio law changed its status as a contributory negligence state to a modified comparative fault state. The law is codified under Ohio Revised Code section 2315.33.

Ohio's modified contributory negligence law allows an injured party who is at fault to recovery money from the other driver so long as she is not greater than 50% at fault for the car crash. If the injured party is greater than 50% negligent then she is prevented from recovering money. Under this rule, any recovery awarded to her is reduced by the percentage of her own negligence. For example, if a jury finds that she is 25% at fault for the car crash and her damages are worth $100,000, then she gets $75,000. If on the other hand, she is deemed to be 51% at fault, she collects no money. Clearly, this seems to be a more reasonable approach than Ohio's former antiquated contributory negligence rule but not as fair as some states who permit the injured party to collect the amount of damage relative to fault regardless of how much fault is assessed to the injured party.

Other states have a rule known as pure comparative fault. This rule allows an injured person to recover damages so long as the injured person was not 100% at fault. Any amount of damages the injured person can recover is reduced by her negligence, regardless of whether she was more negligent than the other party (i.e., over 50% at fault for her own injuries). Using the prior example, if the injured person is found to be 99% at fault and there is $100,000 worth of damages, the injured party would get $1,000. In Ohio, the injured party would get zero.

Suppose someone was speeding and rear-ends the car in front of them. However, the car in front did not have functional brake lights at the time of the accident and as a result, the driver who rear- ended the car could not tell the car was slowing down. This is a basic illustration of an accident in which both drivers could be considered negligent.

Every case is different and fact-specific. After listening to all of the evidence at trial, the fact-finder (a jury or a judge) will decide who was at fault and to what extent by assigning percentages to each party.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, please contact the experienced injury attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers for a free consultation at 513-932-2115. 

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