Understanding Responsibility In Personal Injury Cases

When you are injured because of someone else’s negligence, it is critical that you are compensated for the cost and the pain that you suffer as a result. Understanding how this compensation is determined and where it comes from can make a difference in securing the best settlement in your case.

Ohio is an at-fault state that practices a modified comparative negligence law. While this law can be applied in any personal injury case, it frequently comes into play in auto accidents and will dictate who pays as well as what percentage they pay of the damages.

Consider you are in a car accident in which you suffer a back injury. According to the police report and witness statements, the other driver is at fault, therefore, he pays for the damages to your car and your medical bills, right? Actually, it’s not the simple.

First of all, it is rare that an individual will pay any actual damages. The settlement you receive will almost always come from an insurance company.

Second, since 1980 when Ohio enacted its current comparative negligence law, the cost of damages can be shared by both drivers based on the amount of negligence each contributed to the accident. A driver deemed more than 50% negligent will be held responsible for damages, but if the other party is deemed 20% negligent in the accident, the at-fault driver will pay only 80% of the damages while the other driver is responsible for the rest. The driver deemed more than 50% negligent may not recovery any damages.

An accurate police report and witness statements, as well as pictures or video can be crucial to building your case if you believe you are entitled to compensation for damage or injury. In our hypothetical, you also will need to carefully chronical your medical care illustrating how your back injury occurred. Your share of negligence can be attributed to your behavior behind the wheel, state laws that set driver expectations, or care you should have taken related to protecting yourself, especially if it can be proven that you had a previous back condition that could have contributed to the injury or its severity. Your settlement will be reduced by whatever percentage of negligence you share in the accident/injury.

Your compensation when your case is settled will come from the bodily injury liability policy of the at-fault driver’s auto insurance. In Ohio, drivers must carry at least $25,000 in bodily injury coverage. So, let’s say your medical bills are $100,000 and you have been deemed 25% negligent in the accident that caused your back injury. You are responsible for $25,000 of your expenses and you should be compensated $50,000 by the at-fault driver. However, he carries only $25,000 in bodily injury insurance.

There are options for collecting the full amount owed you. The driver may have an umbrella policy that provides additional coverage in such cases. Depending upon the circumstances, it may be advisable to personally sue the individual who hit you for the remaining damages.

Finally, understand that in accidents, other circumstances can dictate liability for what happened. For example, the driver may have hit you because his brakes were faulty. While he is still responsible for causing the accident, some liability may be placed on the mechanic who was negligent in installing or repairing the brakes.

If you are injured in an auto accident, always talk to an attorney before making statements to or accepting a settlement from an insurance company. Attorney Elizabeth Bernard can advise you of all your options to secure the best settlement for you.


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