After you’ve been in an accident, you no doubt want to lay the blame solely at the feet of the other side. But the other side would love to do the same to you! They’ll allege that you were at least partly to blame for what happened. So it’s wise to review all of your options: perhaps you were just a little bit to blame.
If you do accept some of the blame, then you might want to pursue a joint liability agreement. So, in our post today, let’s find out exactly what that means.
Personal injury attorney Colorado Springs: what does joint liability mean?
Joint liability isn’t an obscure, unclear piece of jargon that attorneys use. It’s a literal description! Joint liability means that you accept that you were partly to blame, at least, for the accident. This could be in relation to something you either did or didn’t do. This is in contrast to strict liability, where one person is held entirely accountable for something under the law.
So, for example, after a car accident you may immediately jump to the conclusion that them cutting you off was to blame for the accident. But you could say that the fact that you didn’t have your brakes checked recently may have contributed. Or, alternatively, you could say that you were just a tiny bit distracted because you were switching radio stations. In each of these examples, the accident isn’t completely your fault. The majority of the blame still lies with the other side. But your actions, or omissions, did serve as contributory factors in the crash. Does that make sense?
Personal injury attorney Colorado Springs: when might joint liability apply?
Like in the example above, joint liability can apply in car accidents. But in reality, you can seek (or have to accept, more accurately) joint liability in many kinds of claim. One random example is if you suffer from burn or explosion injuries! So, for example, the explosion may have been because of insecurely or improperly stored chemical waste. But if you were smoking in a no-smoking area, then you could be held jointly or partially liable.
There are scenarios where joint liability cannot apply because of the existence of specific laws. In dog bite injury cases, for example, the law in most states is one of strict liability. This means that the courts hold the dog’s owner entirely responsible for the actions of their dog. As long as you didn’t provoke the dog into attacking.
Personal injury attorney Colorado Springs: how does joint liability work in practice?
Joint liability is considered on an ad-hoc basis. That means that there is no hard and fast rule, or any hard and fast way of working out the exact liability of each person involved in the accident. This is because the exact liability of each person is often unclear, and almost always disputed. Joint liability is something that both parties have to agree to.
In practise, this means that both parties must come to an agreement as to the exact proportion of liability that each receives. This is worked out using percentages: most commonly 50/50%, 25/75% or simply 100% (full liability). This is determined using factors like the negligence of each driver, the condition of the cars they were driving, and so on.
The problem with joint liability in practise is that situational factors like who was checking their phone when, who was looking in their rear view mirror when, and who saw whom doing what are subjective. There is no way of effectively and accurately determining these details without a witness. As such, even if you know that you were driving perfectly and the other driver was entirely at fault, you may still have to accept joint liability.
Personal injury attorney Colorado Springs: does this affect the compensation I’ll receive?
It does. Joint liability is a way of directly determining the amount that you receive in damages. If you accept a 50/50% split, and the other side offers you $20,000, and you accepted, you’ll receive $10,000. Naturally, the same applies to 75/25% splits as well. If you decide to pursue your case through a contingency fee attorney, their fees will apply only to that smaller amount, not the larger amount, so you won’t be out of pocket.
The money for joint liability agreements comes from your and their insurance companies. So, if both parties accept 50% liability, then you will each receive 50% of the value of your claim from the other claimant’s insurance company.
Personal injury attorney Colorado Springs: will I have to pursue a joint liability agreement?
Each party works with their attorneys and insurance companies, who advise them on their level of liability. That means that once in discussion with the other party, you can choose whether to accept an agreement or not. Even so, claimants agree the vast majority of joint liability agreements out of court. These cases almost never need to be worked out in the courtroom, because the people who were in the accident can almost always come to an agreement.
Your personal injury attorney can use their experience and knowledge of agreements like these to help you. They can tell you whether the other side will offer you a better deal if you reject their first offer. They can also let you know if you’re lucky to have been offered (say) a 75/25% split, because they feel that you’re actually more to blame!