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Finding of Comparative Fault Can Reduce Your Compensation

In some car accident lawsuits, more than one party can be found at-fault. Fortunately, we live in a state where being partially at-fault doesn’t negate your right to collect compensation. However, per the pure comparative fault model by which the statute abides, the amount of your award is reduced proportionately by the degree of fault.
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That’s why Broward County car accident lawyers know it is important to present a strong, convincing argument to the courts, based on the facts, that reduces your liability by the greatest degree possible.

Hall v. County of Lancaster, reviewed recently by the Nebraska Supreme Court, illustrates why this can sometimes be a challenge.

Before delving into the facts, it’s important to note that Nebraska follows a modified comparative fault model with a 50 percent bar. That makes it similar to Florida’s in that plaintiff’s own negligence will proportionately diminish his or her recovery of compensation, but if his or her degree of negligence reaches 50 percent or more, the claim is barred.

While Florida courts will still render awards to plaintiffs with 50 percent fault, it’s generally not the norm. This is where consulting with an experienced attorney – before you file – can be beneficial. While no attorney can guarantee an outcome, a good one can provide you with valuable advice regarding the strength of your case.

In the Hall case, three parties were involved: The driver of a pickup truck (the plaintiff), the driver of a school bus (the defendant) and the city (another defendant).

According to court documents, the truck driver collided with a bus on a rural road in late August 2009. The speed limit on those gravel country roads was 50-miles-per-hour, and neither party was believed to be exceeding that speed at the time of the crash.

The intersection at which the crash occurred had a limited degree of visibility, and was “blind” for both drivers because planted corn obstructed the views. Additionally, there was supposed to have been a stop sign for which the pickup driver would have had to obey. However, that stop sign was missing.

There was no indication that the city had been apprised of the missing stop sign before the crash. Neither driver was especially familiar with the intersection, so neither knew there should have been a stop sign.

A traffic engineer would later testify that neither party had enough time to react once the other became visible.

The truck driver would later sue the school district and the county, alleging that the driver had failed to yield to the right-of-way, operated the school bus too fast for conditions and failed to keep proper control of the vehicle. The county, he said, was negligent in failing to maintain the traffic control device.

While the courts initially decided in favor of the driver (though they did apportion him a percentage of the fault), that finding was later reversed on appeal. The court holding that the county’s lack of a sign-inspection policy to ensure the stop sign was maintained was not proven to be a proximate cause of the crash.

The case was remanded so that the courts could re-apportion fault between the pickup truck driver and the school district.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Hall v. County of Lancaster, April 18, 2014, Nebraska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Insurance Dispute in Chain-Reaction Collisions – One Collision or Two? March 7, 2014, Broward County Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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