Comparative fault in auto cases

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in .

“Can I still sue the other driver for pain and suffering if I am partly at fault for the accident?”

Yes, as long as you are not more than 50% at fault yourself. This issue comes up a lot in cases where, for example, one driver is turning left on a yellow light, and a driver going straight speeds up a little to “make” the light. The turning driver believes that the oncoming driver should know that cars will be turning left on yellow. The oncoming driver says you shouldn’t turn until you are sure the oncoming traffic is stopping. Both parties can be partly at fault, and can still file claims for pain and suffering (“non-economic damages”) against one another. The driver who can convince a judge or jury that he or she was seriously injured, and was not more than 50% at fault is eligible for money damages.

This is called “comparative negligence.” It means that the court “compares” how much each driver contributed to the crash. If you were mostly the cause of the collision, you can’t get any money for pain and suffering. Note: this is the law in Michigan, but not in all states.

You should keep in mind that this rule doesn’t apply to claims against the driver for economic losses (financial losses caused by injuries) that are above the no-fault maximums. One example: If you make more than the no-fault monthly maximum for wages (currently about $5400), or you will be disabled for more than three years, you can still go after the other driver for the excess even if you were mostly at fault. The amount you are awarded will be reduced by the percentage the jury finds you at fault.

Source: MCL 500.3135 (2)(b)

Steven Matz

Written By Steven Matz

Steven Matz
Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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