When you are in a car accident in Utah the insurance companies will investigate and assign percentages of fault to each driver. The insurance companies often disagree and often assign higher fault to the driver they do not insure—go figure.
There are a few legal terms you should know before we go further. Utah jury instructions describe these terms as follows:
Fault, according to Utah Jury Instructions, is any wrongful act or failure to act.
A simple example is making a U-turn where a U-turn is not permitted--that is a wrongful act. Failure to act gets a little tricky sometimes. Let's say a person drives through a red light. Is that a wrongful act--driving through a red light is a wrongful act but it can also be described as a failure to act--failure to stop.
Negligence means that a person did not use reasonable care. We all have a duty to use reasonable care to avoid injuring others. Reasonable care is simply what a reasonably careful person would do in a similar situation. A person may be negligent in acting or in failing to act.
The amount of care that is reasonable depends upon the situation. Ordinary circumstances do not require extraordinary caution. But some situations require more care because a reasonably careful person would understand that more danger is involved.
The Utah jury instruction on negligence, along with the case law, is interesting.
Again, the Utah Jury Instruction, read to every jury, defines the term.
As used in the law, the word "cause" has a special meaning, and you must use this meaning whenever you apply the word. "Cause" means that:
(1) the person's act or failure to act produced the harm directly or set in motion events that produced the harm in a natural and continuous sequence;
(2) the person's act or failure to act could be foreseen by a reasonable person to produce a harm of the same general nature.
In Utah there is a specific jury instruction that allocating fault:
[Name of party] claims that more than one person's fault was a cause of the harm. If you decide that more than one person is at fault, you must decide each person's percentage of fault that caused the harm. This allocation must total 100%.
You may also decide to allocate a percentage to the plaintiff. Plaintiff's total recovery will be reduced by the percentage that you attribute to him or her. If you decide that plaintiff's percentage of fault is 50% or greater, plaintiff will recover nothing.
How Assigning Fault Works
We have handled hundreds of car accident cases where the insurance company for the offending driver will accept fault for causing the crash and then turn around and say the harm to our client simply was not the result of the crash.
The insurance companies hire doctors who are essentially in their pocket. These “doctors” go through our client's medical record looking for any preexisting or later indication that anything or everything caused the injuries described—everything except the crash. It's crazy how a person can be perfectly fine before a crash and then get surgery after the crash and yet, according to these hired opinion “doctors”, the surgery was necessary because of some preexisting malady.
There you have it - Partial Fault.
When a jury decides an injured person is let's say, 25% at fault and render a verdict of $100,000—the plaintiff will only receive $75,000. If you are 50% or more at fault—you will receive nothing.
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