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Can a person who is partly at fault still recover damages?

When things go wrong in the lives of Pittsburgh residents, there is often a lot of finger pointing involved from the different people involved in the incident. This is certainly true in the legal system, as the different parties to a case may place the blame for the incident at the hands of the other side.

Under Pennsylvania law, this finger pointing can be resolved by a jury, who will determine which party was at fault. In many cases, however, there may not be a single answer to this question.

Drivers on the road owe the same standards of care to one another. Accordingly, if an accident occurs, it is entirely possible that not just one person was at fault for the accident.

For instance, in a fatal accident involving two drivers, one of the drivers may have been exceeding the speed limit at the time of the crash, while the other failed to yield. The jury will hear all of this evidence, and make a decision as to what percentage of fault should be apportioned to each of the drivers. Accordingly, the jury might find that the driver who was speeding was 20 percent at fault for the crash, while the other driver was 80 percent at fault.

This concept, known as comparative negligence, impacts the amount of damages an injured person may recover in the lawsuit. In other words, while the injured person is not prevented from holding the other party liable and recovering compensation, the amount of that compensation will be reduced based on the percentage of fault of the injured party. In the example above, the injured party who was 20 percent at fault may see his or her damages reduced by 20 percent. Accordingly, individuals injured in a crash should be aware of how comparative negligence may impact their case.

Source: Pennsylvania Legislature, "Comparative negligence," accessed on July 9, 2016

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