Can You Get Compensation for Injuries If You are Partly At Fault For an Accident?

If you are hurt in an accident due to another driver’s negligence, they are responsible for paying for expenses related to your injuries. But what if you are partly to blame, too? 

If your state has comparative negligence laws, receiving damages is still possible. The amount may be reduced, but a partial settlement is better than none at all when paying for injuries.

The bottom line is that sharing fault should not deter you from getting a personal injury lawyer and asking for compensation. 

Comparative Fault: How Two People Can Both Be At Fault For an Accident

While some accidents are clearly the fault of one driver or the other, many result from both drivers making a mistake. 

For example, the driver of Car A backs out of a parking space without checking and collides with Car B, whose driver is driving through the parking lot while texting. Both drivers’ carelessness contributed to the crash. Accidents like these typically are fender-benders, so, fortunately, if there are any injuries, they will likely be minor. But it’s easy to see in this case how both drivers are at fault.

Another example: Suppose Car A is on the entrance ramp getting ready to merge onto a busy highway. The driver does not bother to signal or check if there are vehicles in their blind spot. Meanwhile, Car B is in the adjacent lane but not paying attention. Car B hits Car A instead of adjusting speed or moving over to let Car A in. Serious injuries and even deaths can occur when more than one person is at fault for an accident at high speeds like this.

Not all shared fault cases are car accidents. Personal injuries in a slip and fall, for example, can be the responsibility of both a shop owner and the person who fell. The owner may be liable for creating a tripping hazard by leaving boxes around. But if a customer trips on one that is in a part of the store marked for employees only, they may share the blame for their injuries. 

No-fault, Comparative Fault, and Contributory Negligence

Just because someone is partly to blame for their injuries, it does not mean they should skip checking with the insurance company to see if they are eligible for compensation. The laws that determine how much a case is worth differ depending on the state where the accident happened. 

Note that state statutes may change at any time, so it is important to check current state insurance laws to find which rules apply. 

No-fault States

There are about a dozen states classified as “no-fault insurance” states. In these locations, it doesn’t matter who was responsible for an accident. Each driver receives benefits from their own insurance company to take care of property damage and injuries. If expenses go beyond what insurance will pay, victims may sue an at-fault driver for more. This too, varies by state and may include limits on the amount allowed.

Contributory Negligence States

Only a handful of states are at the other end of the spectrum from no-fault. In a contributory negligence state, contributing to an accident even a little bit will disqualify someone from recovering damages. If the hypothetical accidents mentioned above happened in one of these states, the insurance companies would not reimburse either party’s medical expenses.

person who caused a car accident
Image by Drazen Zigic by

Comparative Negligence States 

Most states in the country are comparative negligence states. Comparative negligence or comparative fault means that the financial liability for injuries is based on the amount of responsibility of each driver. 

If one driver is 100% responsible for the accident, their insurance must pay the victims the full amount of compensation (as long as they are within the bodily injury limits of the insurance policy). 

When two or more drivers are at fault for an accident, they share financial liability according to their portion of fault. For example, a motorcycle is going too fast for icy conditions and weaving in and out of traffic on the highway. A car fails to signal and moves into a lane at the same time the motorcycle does and the two collide. Both drivers played a part in causing the accident. The insurance companies may assign the motorcycle 80% liability and car only 20%, and will pay any settlements according to that percentage. 

Missouri and Illinois Comparative Negligence Laws

Missouri and Illinois are both comparative negligence states, but they differ slightly in their laws.

Missouri practices pure comparative negligence. Each driver is responsible for their percentage of blame. If the biker in the example above is badly hurt, the insurance company would establish what the case is worth, then pay only 20% of that total because that is the driver of the car’s portion of liability. 

In Illinois, the rule is modified comparative negligence. This method divides the responsibility just like Missouri, however, victims can only recover damages if they are less than 50% at fault. In other words, the insurance company won’t award damages to people who are equally at fault.

Determining Compensation For an Accident That Was My Fault

Determining potential compensation for someone at fault or partially at fault depends on where the crash happened. In an at-fault state, everyone is covered. In a contributory negligence state, no one who shares the blame can collect.

In states with comparative negligence laws, the percentage of responsibility is a key factor in the amount of damages. It is worth noting that if an insurance company finds that a victim is partly at fault, they might try to inflate the percentage of liability. By arguing that a driver was 30% responsible instead of 15%, for example, they could pay a significantly lower settlement.

A skilled personal injury attorney like Hipskind & McAninch  is instrumental in helping prove liability. They will gather evidence, interview witnesses, and review police reports to determine what, if any, portion of responsibility belongs to each driver. Their job is to get their clients the best possible settlement, and that means making sure they are accepting their fair share of the blame, and no more.

Another important reason to get legal assistance after an accident is the complex nature of comparative negligence laws from state to state. Since Hipskind & McAninch practice in Missouri and Illinois, they are well versed in the subtle differences in the state statutes of both. 

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

Knowing you are partly at fault for an accident is not a good reason for not seeking compensation. In Illinois and Missouri you will likely be able to collect some type of settlement to help pay for your injuries. And as medical bills mount up, even partial damages are worth the effort.

If you have been hurt in a car crash, contact Hipskind & McAninch. The initial consultation is always free.


Car Accidents, Personal Injury


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