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Determining Who is At Fault for an Injury

In a personal injury case, fault is as important as negligence. In fact, fault and negligence are intrinsically connected – when an individual causes an accident by acting negligently, he or she is at fault for the accident. When it is determined that an individual is at fault for a victim’s injury, it is because he or she acted negligently.

Which party or parties involved in an accident were at fault is discovered during the investigation of the victim’s claim. This is often conducted by the victim’s attorney and the insurance provider with whom the claim is filed. If these parties cannot agree on whose negligence caused the accident, one may file a personal injury lawsuit to have the court determine fault in the case.

How is Fault Determined?

During an investigation of a personal injury claim, fault is determined by examining the sequence of events in the accident and each involved party’s role within them. This is done by examining the evidence provided. Through this investigation, the following must be proven:

  • The negligent party had a duty to the victim. This could mean a duty to keep his or her dog under control or the duty to obey posted traffic signals;
  • The negligent party somehow breached this duty, meaning that he or she did not take a reasonable level of care to protect others;
  • This breach directly caused the victim’s injury; and
  • The victim is now experiencing actual, quantifiable damages as a result of the negligent party’s breach of duty.

During an investigation, the attorney or insurance provider might also find that the victim holds some of the fault. If this is the case, his or her settlement amount may be reduced due to the rule of modified comparative fault.

Other Types of Fault

Sometimes, a party may be liable for a victim’s damages without having to be proven negligent. This may occur in the following scenarios:

  • If the offender is found to be at fault through negligence per se, which is a violation of the law. For example, if a driver causes an accident because he or she was using a handheld phone while driving through an area where handheld phone use while driving is prohibited, he or she was negligent per se and thus liable for the victim’s damages;
  • If strict liability is applicable to the case. Strict liability is a party’s liability for injuries sustained when engaging in certain behaviors. For example, if a victim is bitten by a dog and none of the exceptions to Tennessee’s dog bite law are applicable to the case, the dog’s owner has strict liability for the victim’s damages; and
  • If it can be proven that the party at fault acted intentionally. Examples of intentional conduct include battery and domestic violence, which can both result in criminal charges for the guilty party.

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