Before a settlement, car accident fault or negligence must be determined. The insurance company and the attorney for the injured person must come to an understanding of what a jury would likely do is asked to determine relative fault between the drivers in causing a car accident. Sometimes, it’s is very easy and undisputed, such as with a rear end collision. The car who rear ends the vehicle in front of him is going to be 100% at fault unless faced with an emergency not of his own doing. On the other hand, many intersection or side impact accidents are not so easy to evaluate. Often each driver has a different version of the accident or there are inconsistent witness statements. In these cases, each attorney or claims adjuster uses their knowledge of the law and command of the facts to arrive at their best educated opinion on what a jury might do with the question. We say a jury, because in our justice system, if the parties cannot come to a compromise or settlement, then the ultimate decider is a jury in a court of law.
The first step determining fault is negligence. Before a driver can be at fault and responsible for damages from a motor vehicle accident, he or she must negligent in their driving. Negligent driving means driving below the standard of care. The standard of care is often defined as what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances, but with driving we can usually be much more specific. There are driving rules of the road which specifically prohibit some actions and which compel others. For example, before making a left turn, a driver must yield to oncoming traffic. If one makes a left turn into traffic and an accident ensues, the left turner is negligent because he broke a rule. If a driver is speeding, driving faster than the speed limit, he is also negligent because he broke a rule. However, the speeding example brings us to the second half of the fault calculation, causation. Just because someone breaks a rule and is negligent in their driving, they are not automatically at fault and responsible for damages from an accident. Their negligence must have caused or been a substantial factor in causing the accident and ensuing damages. In the speeding example, what if a driver is going 70 mph in a 65 mph zone, but a driver on their right suddenly changes lanes into them. Clearly both drivers are negligent, both were breaking rules at the time of the accident. But is the speeding driver’s negligence a cause of the collision. Would it have made a difference if the was going 62, 65 or 70 when the other guy suddenly changes lanes without looking? That, is for the jury to decide, but attorneys use these facts and the law to hammer out settlements favorable to their clients.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin attorneys get the results in car accident settlements when the law applied to the facts shows the defendant driver is at fault for the collision.