Ohio’s comparative negligence laws have important implications for personal injury claims. Also known as contributory fault or comparative fault, comparative negligence allows for an individual to recover damages even if they are up to 50 percent at fault for an accident.
In an effort to deny or devalue legitimate claims, insurance companies may use comparative negligence as a defense. An experienced personal injury attorney can ensure that a victim is not unfairly blamed for an accident, and that they are fairly compensated for their losses.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Negligence is a legal concept that often arises in car and truck accidents, slip and fall accidents, dog bites, and other types of personal injury claims.
Ohio defines negligence as “the failure to exercise the degree of care required of a reasonable and prudent person in any given circumstance resulting in injury or damage to another.” Negligent driving might include actions such as running a traffic light; failing to yield when required; and texting behind the wheel. Typically, negligence is determined on a case-by-case basis. But if an individual broke a law (such as a traffic law), there may be a presumption of negligence, or negligence per se.
Most accidents occur because somebody was careless (i.e., negligent). But what happens when both parties were negligent? This is where comparative negligence comes into play.
Under Ohio law, if you are negligent in an accident and injured, you can still recover your losses—as long as you are 50 percent or less at fault for the accident—minus the percent of blame assigned to you. If you are more than 50 percent at fault, however, you cannot recover losses from the other party.
For example, assume that in a car accident case, you are assigned 20 percent of the blame, the other driver is assigned 80 percent of the blame, and you receive a settlement for $100,000. The settlement would be reduced by 20 percent (your share of the blame), or $20,000, to $80,000.
How Insurance Companies Use Comparative Fault Against Victims
While comparative negligence sounds simple in theory, it can be quite complicated in practice. That’s because, at least during the initial stages of a case, insurance companies are responsible for determining accident fault.
The insurance company has a financial incentive to use comparative negligence as a defense. To save money, they might bend the facts and unfairly shift blame to the victim. A claim with an 80/20 fault ratio in favor of the victim is much cheaper than a claim that splits the blame 50/50. Or, by claiming that a victim is more than 50 percent to blame for an accident, the insurance company can avoid payment altogether.
Graham & Graham Will Make Sure You Are Fairly Compensated
Insurance companies know that most claimants need the money fast and won’t try to negotiate for more. They also know the average claimant is not well versed in the law and skilled at negotiations. Insurers routinely leverage these advantages as a way to deny and underpay claims.
When you hire a personal injury attorney from Graham & Graham to represent you, insurance company tricks don’t work. We handle all insurance company communications on behalf of our clients, conduct our own accident investigation using skilled experts, and negotiate a fair settlement that is based on evidence. If we disagree with the insurer’s assessment of our client’s negligence, we will not hesitate to take the case to court.
Everything we do is aimed at recovering maximum compensation for our clients. We will make sure that the insurance company handles your claim honestly and compensates you fairly.
For answers about comparative negligence and other questions, contact Graham & Graham for a free consultation.