Most Louisiana residents know that if they are hurt in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, they can file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party in order to be compensated for their medical expenses and other damages. Of course, when applying this idea to the exact circumstances of an accident, things can get a lot more complicated.
For instance, what if you were partly at fault for the accident in which you were hurt?
Louisiana law deals with this situation through something called comparative fault.
A way to recover compensation
In the past, courts held that an injured person could not recover any compensation in a personal injury lawsuit if they held any responsibility at all for the accident in which they were hurt. Under this rule, a pedestrian who crossed a street without looking both ways could not recover compensation after they were hit and badly hurt by a careless driver who raced through an intersection.
Some states still have a version of this harsh rule, but most states have worked to soften its edges.
Louisiana’s comparative fault system works by assigning a percentage of fault to each party involved in an accident. Every party can recover compensation from the others, but their recovery is reduced according to their percentage of fault.
For example, let’s return to the example of the pedestrian accident we mentioned earlier. Let’s say the pedestrian is badly injured and suffers $100,000 in damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. The pedestrian files suit against the driver, seeking compensation for $100,000.
The court examines the evidence and determines that the pedestrian was 20% at fault because they failed to look both ways before crossing the street. The driver was 80% at fault.
This means, if the pedestrian proves their case, they can hold the driver liable for their damages, but their recovery is reduced by 20%. Instead of $100,000, they can recover $80,000.
No doubt, it will disappoint the pedestrian to learn that they can’t recover the full $100,000, but $80,000 is a lot better than nothing.
Interestingly, comparative fault law could theoretically allow the driver to hold the pedestrian liable as well. If, for some reason, the driver suffered damages, they could file suit against the pedestrian. So long as the driver proved their case, they could recover from the pedestrian. However, because the driver was 80% at fault, their recovery would be reduced by 80%.
The above examples are simplified. It can be difficult to apply comparative fault to some complex cases, such as those involving multi-vehicle accidents. However, comparative fault can be a great help to injured people who need compensation in order to deal with the aftermath of an accident.