Comparative Fault

Frequently, we represent clients who may have done something negligent to cause their own injuries.

What? Did you read that correctly? Yes, you did.

Arizona is a comparative fault jurisdiction. Generally speaking, this means that one who suffers bodily injury may recover compensation from the tortfeasor (the individual who is at fault), but only to the extent the tortfeasor is responsible for causing the injuries. The injured person bringing the claim (the “plaintiff”), even if partially at fault, may still recover compensation from the tortfeasor, but the plaintiff’s own fault will reduce the amount he may recover.

So, for example, Steven is riding as a passenger in John’s vehicle. John runs a red light, and collides with a left turning motorist, Laura. Steven, who wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, strikes the windshield of John’s vehicle, sustaining severe facial lacerations. A jury could assess fault to Laura (for failing to yield to an oncoming vehicle), to John (for running the red light), and to Steven himself (if it could be proven that Steven’s failure to wear a seatbelt was both unreasonable and caused or exacerbated his injuries). At trial, a jury would likely be asked to allocate fault among all three individuals. Steven could recover his damages against John and Laura (or more typically, their automobile insurance companies), but only for the percentage of his damages that are attributable to their fault in causing Steven’s injuries.

Of course, whether and to what extent tortfeasors and injured individuals themselves are actually at fault for causing bodily injuries is entirely fact-specific, and varies tremendously based upon the specific circumstances of the incident or accident.

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