A determination of who is responsible for an automobile accident, or accident liability, is the essential first step in representing an injured individual. I find that in the majority of car accidents, one driver is more negligent than the other. Although some accidents are the result of intentional acts, most are the result of negligence. Broadly defined, a driver is negligent when that person fails to exercise ordinary care. Wisconsin Jury Instruction 1005 defines ordinary care as that “care which a reasonable person would use in similar circumstances.” When a person drives a car in such a manner that causes an unreasonable risk of harm (without intending the harm though), that driver is negligent and responsible for any injuries.
Common examples of negligent driving include:
Failing to stop for a stop sign.
Making a left turn without yielding the right of way to oncoming traffic.
Failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian on a walkway.
Failing to keep the car under control because of excessive speed in bad weather.
Although the above list is certainly not all inclusive, most people who cause automobile accidents do so, not out of a desire to hurt someone, but because they are preoccupied (cell phone) or are simply driving in a careless manner.
Outside of conducting an extensive interview of the potential client, police reports, video surveillance tapes, witness statements and black box data (late model cars) are all invaluable sources of information.
In Wisconsin, if the injured person is 51% or more at fault for the accident, that person cannot recover compensation. If the injured person is 50% or less at fault, than compensation can be recovered, minus any comparative negligence. For example, if the injured person is 40% at fault for the accident, than that person’s compensation is reduced by 40%. In today’s economic climate, insurance companies are increasingly arguing for greater reductions based upon the negligence of the injured person; the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer is essential in determining disputed liability cases.