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How does comparative fault impact compensation in an Ohio car accident?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Car Accidents

Car accidents happen so fast that sometimes it can be hard to tell exactly who is at fault – but Ohio adheres to a system of modified comparative negligence that makes determining each party’s share of fault essential.

Under Ohio’s system of shared liability, car accident victims can recover damages so long as they are not more than 50% at fault for their own losses. However, the compensation you are entitled to receive will be reduced by your share of any negligence involved in the wreck.

What does that mean in practical terms?

Imagine a scenario where you pulled in front of another driver but suddenly stopped short. The other driver was following too closely, so they couldn’t respond in time and there was a rear-end collision. Ultimately, a jury or judge may say that the other driver was 80% at fault for the accident for not leaving an assured clear distance between your vehicles, but your abrupt stop contributed 20% to the crash. If the total value of your losses, including the damage to your vehicle, lost wages, medical bills and your pain and suffering, is worth $100,000, you would be entitled to 80% of that amount, or $80,000.

Sadly, if you are 51% at fault for a crash and the other driver is 49% at fault, you cannot recovery any damages in Ohio.

Who gets to decide fault after a wreck?

The short answer is a judge or jury, but most cases are settled long before trial.  If you and the other driver both agree about who was at fault for the wreck, there may be nothing to decide – but drivers are seldom in total agreement.

As far as the insurance companies are concerned, the official police report is often the key to determining fault, but not final. The first officer on the scene will usually take notes about the wreck and will, more than likely, issue a citation (ticket) to a driver if traffic laws were violated. Drivers who fail to adhere to traffic rules are guilty of at least one form of negligence – negligence per se.

What happens, however, if you believe that the officer is wrong? What if you agree with the officer, but the other driver’s insurer refuses to concede that their insured was at fault? What if you’re involved in a multi-vehicle collision where it’s not clear how negligence should be divided?

In those situations (especially if the negotiations fail and the case moves toward litigation), it may be necessary to look at other sources of information to determine each party’s share of the fault. Those sources include:

  • The recollections of both drivers about the events leading up to the wreck
  • The testimony of eyewitnesses, including passengers in both vehicles and bystanders
  • Video evidence, such as the kind that can be recorded by dash cams
  • Data from one or more of the vehicle’s “event data recorder” (EDR) or “black box”
  • Photographic evidence of skid marks, traffic conditions and vehicle damage
  • Accident reconstruction, as performed by certain qualified professionals in the field

Navigating fault determination in an Ohio car accident requires a thorough understanding of state law, investigative procedures and insurance practices. While the process may seem daunting, it is essential for securing rightful compensation and holding accountable those responsible for your accident. By leveraging your available legal resources, you can protect your rights and get fair compensation for your losses.