What happens if I’m partially at fault in a car accident?

Most states in the country follow comparative negligence laws, meaning that a court will determine the amount of fault each party has in an accident and determine compensation accordingly. If, for example, you suffer whiplash after being rear-ended, and the court decides you were 10 percent at fault for causing the accident, then you would receive 90 percent compensation for your medical expenses and damage to your vehicle.

North Carolina, however, follows contributory negligence law. With contributory negligence, you can only receive compensation for an auto accident if you have no fault (i.e., the other party has 100 percent fault). For instance, if you are riding a motorcycle without a helmet and get side-swiped by a car, resulting in a head injury, your failure to wear a helmet (which goes against North Carolina law) could make you partially at fault for the injury, and you could receive no restitution as a result.

How fault is decided

An accident police report is often a key initial piece of evidence used to determine who was at fault in an accident. In addition, the insurance company of each party will typically investigate the incident to make their own determination. However, neither the police nor the insurance companies operate with the aim or looking out for your compensatory interests. However, a personal injury attorney can also launch a parallel investigation and create a solid case for why you are not at fault.

Because of the all-or-nothing nature of contributory negligence law, it is especially important that in the event of a car accident, you have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side who can fight for the compensation you deserve.

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