Personal injury cases enable injured victims, and in some cases the families of victims, to hold the at-fault party accountable for causing them preventable harm and financially liable for the damages they incurred. In some cases, there may be one clear party at fault. In a car accident involving a drunk driver, for example, victims will likely pursue compensation by holding the impaired motorist liable.
In other accidents, however, there may not just be only one person to blame. This can happen when multiple parties are at fault, or when a victim is partially responsible for causing the accident. When this is the case, liability may need to be split in order for an outcome to be reached. Split liability works just as it sounds – it splits, or apportions, fault for causing or contributing to an accident, and splits liability for the damages a victim suffers, including their medical bills, economic damages, and emotional damages.
At the Law Offices of Dan Davis, our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers work every case aggressively in order to help our clients pursue the maximum compensation possible. When split liability is involved, we make sure to thoroughly investigate who can be held at fault, explore the extent of the role they played in causing an accident and injuries, and work toward utilizing a split liability agreement if necessary.
Split liability can occur in two general ways:
- A victim contributed – The most common form of splitting liability happens when victims played some role in causing or contributing to the accident. This often happens in car accidents. When a victim is partially at fault for causing an accident, they can still recover compensation from the other at-fault party as long as they were not 51% or more at fault. Because Oklahoma uses a modified comparative fault rule in personal injury cases, victims who do contribute to an accident will have their compensation reduced in accordance to how liability is split. This means that if a victim was 20% at fault for contributing to an accident, their damages award would be reduced by 20%. In many cases, investigations can provide a better sense of how fault can be split, and victims and defendants may reach split liability agreements in order to reach a settlement. Often, split liability agreements are divided into 75-25 splits or even 50-50 splits. However, you and your lawyer can work to negotiate what you believe is a fair split liability agreement based on the unique facts of the case.
- Multiple at-fault parties – Although not as common as splitting liability between a plaintiff and defendant, split liability may also come into play when there are multiple parties responsible for causing an accident and injuries. This can happen in multi-vehicle collisions, or in certain types of product liability and premises liability cases. In these situations, Oklahoma law uses a pure several liability rule (also known as proportionate liability), meaning that at-fault parties are only responsible for their proportionate obligation, separate from any other party’s liability. This means a victim can bring a separate claim against one at-fault party without filing suit against any others that may be responsible. As an example, consider a drunk driving accident in which the impaired driver is found to be 90% at fault, while the bar that overserved them prior to the collision is 10% at fault (under dram shop laws). Under several liability, a victim of this crash who is awarded $10 million in compensation would recover $9 million from the drunk driver and $1 million from the bar. If the drunk driver had no insurance, the bar would not be required to pay the driver’s portion.
Split liability can make for complex cases, but with the help of experienced attorneys who have the insight and resources needed to conduct investigations and negotiate with insurance companies, you can put yourself in the best possible position to recover the financial compensation to which you are entitled. Working with a seasoned lawyer can also ensure that you have the support and representation needed to prevent an insurance company from taking advantage of you by getting you to agree to an unfair split liability agreement.
Our legal team at the Law Offices of Dan Davis is available 24/7 to review your case and discuss these issues and what we can do to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.