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When multiple parties are at fault in an auto accident (Part 2)

Sometimes it's crystal clear which party is responsible for causing a car crash. Other times, it may be that multiple parties involved in an auto accident all bear some responsibility. How does a Colorado court decide how to award damages in such a situation?

We looked at one legal theory last week, contributory negligence, and this week we'll continue with the theory generally used throughout the country today, including in Colorado. It is what we call comparative negligence. The information is not intended as specific legal advice, but as general legal background information only.

As opposed to the fairly stark theory of contributory negligence (in which a plaintiff's own negligence, even if minimal, precludes any recovery for damages), comparative negligence means that the degree of negligence is determined with respect to each party. So an accident victim who was also involved in some risky behavior at the time might be held 10 or 20 percent negligent, for example, while the other driver would bear the remaining 80 percent.

There are different ways in which courts might handle those percentages, however. One approach would be to wait until compensation was awarded, then reduce it by the percent of the victim's own negligence. Another is to look at whether the plaintiff's negligence is so great that it is actually 50 percent or more, in which case no damages are awarded (because the plaintiff is just as much at fault as the other party).

It's not uncommon to encounter a situation when pursuing compensation for injuries suffered in a car accident where the other driver tries to assert that the victim is at least partially at fault. A legal professional can help an accident victim understand how these theories of negligence might apply and present a strong case for maximum compensation in court.

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