Navigating Blame: Understanding Comparative Fault in MVA Lawsuits

In the chaotic aftermath of a motor vehicle accident (MVA), determining who is at fault is more than just assigning blame—it directly affects the compensation each party can receive. Different states use different rules to handle cases where multiple parties may be at fault. One such rule, known as “comparative fault,” can significantly impact the outcome of an MVA lawsuit. This blog will delve into the nuances of comparative fault, helping you understand how this legal concept might affect your MVA lawsuit.

What is Comparative Fault?

Comparative fault, also known as comparative negligence, is a legal doctrine used to allocate the degree of fault among the parties involved in an accident. Unlike ‘contributory negligence,’ which can bar recovery altogether if a plaintiff is even slightly negligent, comparative fault allows the court to assign a percentage of blame to each party and adjust the damages accordingly.

How Comparative Fault Works in MVA Lawsuits:

  1. Fault Percentage Allocation:
    • In states that adhere to comparative fault rules, the court will determine what percentage of the fault each party holds for the accident. This is usually based on evidence presented regarding each party’s actions leading up to the accident.
  2. Impact on Damages:
    • Your recovery of damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. For example, if you are found to be 30% responsible for the accident and the total damages amount to $100,000, you would only be eligible to receive $70,000.
  3. Types of Comparative Fault:
    • Pure Comparative Negligence: Allows a damaged party to recover even if they are 99% at fault, though recovery is diminished by the damaged party’s degree of fault.
    • Modified Comparative Negligence: A damaged party cannot recover if they are found to be 50% or more responsible, or in some states, 51%.

Case Examples of Comparative Fault:

Let’s explore a few hypothetical scenarios to illustrate how comparative fault might play out in MVA lawsuits:

  • Scenario 1: A driver runs a red light and hits another driver who was speeding. The court might assign 70% fault to the driver who ran the red light and 30% to the speeding driver.
  • Scenario 2: In a busy intersection, two cars collide, one failing to yield at a stop sign, and the other making an illegal turn. The fault might be distributed more evenly or skewed, depending on the specifics witnessed and proven in court.

Strategies for Managing Comparative Fault in Your Lawsuit:

  1. Gather Comprehensive Evidence:
    • Collect as much evidence as possible, including traffic camera footage, eyewitness statements, and police reports, to accurately demonstrate the events leading up to the accident.
  2. Hire Expert Witnesses:
    • Consider enlisting accident reconstruction experts or traffic engineers who can help establish the dynamics of the accident and support your version of events.
  3. Understand Local Laws:
    • Since laws vary widely by state, consult with a knowledgeable local attorney who understands the intricacies of your jurisdiction’s comparative fault rules.
  4. Negotiation and Mediation:
    • Be prepared to negotiate. Understanding your own potential fault can help in strategizing for settlement negotiations or mediation before trial.


Understanding comparative fault is crucial for anyone involved in an MVA lawsuit, as it directly influences the potential compensation for damages. By comprehensively preparing your case and understanding your state’s specific laws, you can effectively navigate this complex field and enhance your chances of a favorable outcome.

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