Arizona, like many other states, has a specific formula for determining fault, and therefore available compensation, in the litigation phase of a car accident trial. The formula is predicated on the notion of two types of liability. These are known as comparative and contributory liability, and may affect the outcome of a case by adjusting the potential jury award lower than the plaintiff initially demanded.
Comparative negligence guides the jury rulings on awards in most car accident cases. The premise of contributory liability assumes if both parties’ actions in some way contributed to the accident, the plaintiff is not entitled to the full amount of damages specified because the plaintiff’s actions increased the likelihood of an accident. If the jury finds the plaintiff was 20 percent at fault, the requested award may be reduced by at least that amount and may be eliminated altogether if the plaintiff is determined to be more than 50 percent liable.
Few states have retained the contributory negligence precept. This idea states the plaintiff should not be able to retrieve any damages if the accident was at least partially the plaintiff’s fault. Most states use modified contributory negligence, where a plaintiff can only recover damages if the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the accident by less than 50 percent, or comparative negligence in determining awards.
In a crash case with serious injuries, an attorney might begin by examining the evidence and reports from investigators to determine the strength of the plaintiff’s case. If the less than 50 percent rule is met, the attorney may submit a demand for compensation to the defendant and the defendant’s insurance company. If the settlement is not accepted, the attorney may take the case before a jury to obtain a fair compensatory award.