“Liability” is the legal term describing which party is at-fault for causing an accident. In order to prevail on a claim, you must show that some other person or entity is legally responsible for causing the damages. In some cases, like rear-end automobile accidents, liability is generally clear. In other cases, however, the main fight occurs over which parties are at fault and therefore responsible for the harms and losses caused.
In some cases, the defendant will attempt to reduce his or her liability by blaming the plaintiff for the accident. This can have a severe impact on the case. Colorado follows the “modified comparative fault” scheme for assessing liability. Under “modified comparative fault,” if the jury concludes the plaintiff was 50% or more at fault the plaintiff recovers nothing. If the jury concludes the plaintiff was less than 50% at fault, the verdict is reduced by that amount. For example, if the jury awards $100,000.00 in damages but find the plaintiff was 30% at fault, the verdict is reduced by $30,000.00.
In an effort to reduce their costs, many insurance companies will blame the plaintiff even when liability against the defendant is apparently clear under the “last clear chance doctrine.” We have seen many cases where a driver runs a red light or turns left in front of oncoming traffic and the insurance adjuster arbitrarily assigns 20% fault against the plaintiff claiming the plaintiff should have avoided the accident. Ultimately a jury decides, not an insurance adjuster, whether the plaintiff should have been able to avoid the accident. If the defendant persists in this often unfounded defense, it can backfire against the defendant as jurors may resent the defendant’s attempt to avoid responsibility.
Further complicating matters, defendants are allowed to designate additional “non-parties at fault” in an effort to reduce their liability. If this occurs, the jury is asked to apportion fault between the defendant and any properly designated “non-party at fault.” For example, take the $100,000.00 verdict mentioned above. Assume the jury again finds the plaintiff 30% at fault and finds a non-party 25% at fault leaving the defendant 45% at fault. Under this scenario, the plaintiff would recover $45,000.00 from the defendant driver.
Whenever it appears that liability will become contested, it is important to contact us immediately. The highly skilled lawyers at Fuicelli & Lee, PC will immediately initiate a comprehensive investigation to secure all favorable witnesses and testimony. It is important to do this as quickly as possible because memories fade and sometimes witnesses become difficult to find over time.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident, please call or email us today for a free case assessment.
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