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Car Accidents–Comparative and Contributory Negligence in Utah

Posted June 15, 2020 | Uncategorized

According to the Utah Crash Data and Statistics report, nearly 30 percent of all car accident fatalities from 2012 to 2018 were speed-related, while around 27 percent were from unrestrained motorists. The rest were a mixture of accidents involving drivers who either failed to yield or were impaired or distracted. These drivers clearly were at least partly at fault, but does that mean that they couldn’t be compensated for their injuries?

It all depends on the situation at hand and the laws of the state in question. When an accident occurs, if you want to claim damages, fault must be determined. In some cases, multiple people may be responsible for the accident, like a chain accident with multiple rear-ends, which means it may not be easy to determine who receives damages, and how much money they should get. Or, you are involved in a roll-over which also changes things.

When multiple people are involved, evidence can be hard to decipher. Without enough evidence, there is no way to know who actually caused the accident. One party can avoid partial or full liability by claiming that all involved parties were at fault, but how can negligence be determined?

Determining Utah Negligence

In a car accident claim, you must establish negligence by proving the following: 

  • You were owed a duty of care by the defendant
  • The duty of care was breached by the defendant 
  • You incurred injury due to this breach
  • You were injured as a result of the defendant’s action or inaction
  • You actually incurred an injury and/or suffered some sort of loss 

Utah goes by one theory to determine how much of your damages you may receive for your car accident: modified comparative negligence, which comes between contributory negligence and pure comparative negligence.

What is comparative negligence? 

Comparative negligence allocates fault between all parties involved in an accident. In Utah, under this rule, your opposition can raise a partial defense, claiming that you are also at fault to some extent for the accident or your injuries. 

The recovery of damages will depend on the percentage of fault that is attributed to the victim at the end of the investigation. For example, if a driver turned left from the wrong side of the road and hit a speeding car, then both drivers would be considered responsible for the crash, though the degree of responsibility may differ. While the motorist who turned from the wrong side would be held accountable for the most part, the victim who got hit would also be considered to be responsible to a certain degree, since they were driving over the speed limit.

Outside of Utah, accident victims who come under the pure comparative negligence jurisdiction can recover some amount of compensation for their injuries irrespective of how negligent they were. This is applicable even if their degree of negligence is higher than that of the other parties involved.

What is contributory negligence?

According to the contributory negligence doctrine, an accident victim cannot recover anything in compensation if the opposing party can prove that he or she was also at fault during the accident. Contributory negligence can lead to harsh judgments, as it may not let the individual claim damages from the other driver. 

To establish contributory negligence, the defendant must first prove that the victim was also responsible for the accident to a certain degree. 

Modified comparative negligence in the State of Utah

As mentioned, the state of Utah follows the modified comparative negligence rule while dealing with car accident cases. This falls somewhere between the two previously discussed theories of contributory and pure comparative negligence.

In Utah, you can receive damages for as much as you were not negligent, as long as more than half of the fault lies with your opposition. Thus, if you are determined to be 49 percent at fault for the accident, then you can receive up to 49 percent of damages. However, if you are 50 percent at fault, then you sadly cannot recover any damages at all.

Why Hire the Car Accident Lawyers at Fielding Law

It is never simple to prove who was at fault during an auto accident. In most cases, both the drivers are responsible to some degree. Failing to prove that the other driver was also at fault can cost you a fortune, so you don’t want to make this attempt on your own.

Since negligence laws vary by state, it is essential to hire a personal injury lawyer who has experience in Utah modified comparative negligence law regarding your Utah car accident. 

Speaking to a personal injury attorney can help determine how the law affects your specific case.  The attorney will go over your case files and advise you on the legal steps to take to prove the comparative negligence of the other driver. Call (801) 666-2912 to schedule your free consultation today.