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What if the other lawyer is claiming I’m at fault?

What If The Other Lawyer Is Claiming I’m At Fault?

When you’re involved in a personal injury case, one of the most stressful scenarios is having the other lawyer claim that you were at fault. This situation can be daunting, but understanding your rights and the legal process can help you navigate these claims more effectively. As a New Hampshire personal injury law firm, we are here to guide you through this challenging time and ensure you receive the fair treatment and compensation you deserve.

Understanding Fault in Personal Injury Cases

In personal injury cases, determining fault is a critical factor. Fault determines who is legally responsible for the accident and, consequently, who should pay for the damages. New Hampshire follows a system called “modified comparative negligence,” which means that your compensation can be reduced by your percentage of fault in the accident. However, if you are found to be more than 50% at fault, you cannot recover any damages.

What is Modified Comparative Negligence?

Modified comparative negligence is a legal doctrine used to assign fault in personal injury cases. Under this system:

  • If you are less than 50% at fault: You can still recover damages, but your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 in damages but found to be 20% at fault, you would receive $80,000.
  • If you are 50% or more at fault: You cannot recover any damages.

This system encourages fairness by ensuring that only those who are primarily responsible for an accident bear the brunt of the financial burden.

Common Scenarios Where Fault May Be Disputed

Fault can be disputed in many types of personal injury cases, including:

  • Car Accidents: Both drivers may blame each other for the accident.
  • Slip and Fall Incidents: The property owner may claim you were careless.
  • Medical Malpractice: Healthcare providers may contend that the victim failed to follow medical advice or seek timely care.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Often a defense lawyer will “throw in the kitchen sink” and claim in their pre-trial pleadings that the plaintiff was partially or completely at fault, even when the evidence for such a claim is weak. Many defense lawyers provide notice of every theoretical defense prior to trial, just to cover themselves. However, as the case gets closer to trial, they often refine the arguments they intend to make and may drop some of claims contained in their pre-trial documents.

Therefore, when a defense lawyer states that the plaintiff may be at fault, the plaintiff should do honest reflection but not get overly anxious or second-guess themselves. Part of the reason defense lawyers take this approach is that they don’t want to waive the right to make an argument until the case gets closer to trial and they are a 100% sure of their best arguments. However, a more cynical reason could be that the defense lawyer knows the plaintiff will be worried about getting attacked at trial and decide to settle for a lesser amount, in order to avoid that experience. In other words, some defense lawyers may use the “comparative fault” claim as an intimidation tactic rather than as a valid defense that they intend to use.

If there is a legitimate argument that the plaintiff had some level of fault in the accident, then this should be considered in deciding a reasonable settlement. However, do not be overly defensive and do not let the defense lawyer’s insinuations bully you. Rely on your lawyer’s assessment about how much of a factor the claim of your fault should play in negotiating a settlement. If the case goes to trial don’t feel overly defensive. Everyone makes mistakes and even if you had some partial level of fault, that does not mean you get nothing unless your fault was deemed greater than 50%.

Steps to Take if You Are Being Blamed

If the other lawyer is claiming that you were at fault, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and strengthen your case:

  1. Gather Evidence: Collect all possible evidence related to the incident. This includes photographs, witness statements, police reports, and medical records. Evidence can help establish the facts and support your version of events.
  2. Seek Legal Counsel: An experienced personal injury attorney can provide invaluable assistance. They can help you understand your rights, build a strong case, and negotiate with the other party.
  3. Avoid Discussing the Case: Refrain from discussing the case with the other party or on social media. Anything you say can be used against you.
  4. Keep Detailed Records: Maintain detailed records of your medical treatments, expenses, and any communication related to the case. These records can support your claim for damages.

How an Attorney Can Help

An experienced personal injury attorney can be your strongest ally when facing allegations of fault. Here’s how they can assist you:

  1. Investigate the Accident: Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and analyze the facts of the case. This can help establish the true cause of the accident.
  2. Negotiate with Insurance Companies: Insurance companies often try to minimize payouts. Your attorney can negotiate on your behalf to ensure you receive fair compensation.
  3. Represent You in Court: If a fair settlement cannot be reached, your attorney can represent you in court. They will present your case, challenge the other party’s claims, and strive to achieve the best possible outcome.
  4. Provide Legal Advice: Navigating a personal injury case can be complex. Your attorney can provide clear, straightforward advice to help you make informed decisions.

Common Defenses Used by the Other Party

When the other lawyer claims you were at fault, they may use several common defenses, including:

  1. Contributory Negligence: Arguing that you were partially responsible for the accident.
  2. Assumption of Risk: Claiming that you knew the risks involved and proceeded anyway.
  3. No Duty of Care: Arguing that they did not owe you a duty of care in the situation.
  4. Pre-existing Conditions: Suggesting that your injuries were not caused by the accident but were due to pre-existing conditions.

Understanding these defenses can help you and your attorney prepare to counter them effectively.

Building a Strong Case

To counter the claims that you were at fault, your attorney will focus on building a strong case by:

  1. Establishing Duty of Care: Demonstrating that the other party owed you a duty of care.
  2. Proving Breach of Duty: Showing that the other party breached this duty through their actions or negligence.
  3. Causation: Linking the breach of duty directly to your injuries.
  4. Damages: Documenting the extent of your injuries and the impact on your life, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The Importance of Timeliness

It’s important to act quickly if you are being blamed for an accident. In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally three years from the date of the injury. Failing to file a claim within this period can result in losing your right to seek compensation.

Seeking a Fair Outcome

Facing accusations of fault can be stressful and overwhelming, but you don’t have to face it alone. With the right legal representation, you can protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve. Remember, the goal is to achieve a fair outcome that reflects the true circumstances of the accident.

Accusations of fault in a personal injury case can complicate an already challenging situation. However, understanding your rights and working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate these claims effectively. By gathering evidence, seeking legal counsel, and building a strong case, you can counter the other party’s claims and strive for a fair resolution.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. At Cohen and Winters, our experienced personal injury team is dedicated to helping clients in New Hampshire navigate these complex cases.

Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn how we can assist you. Let us help you protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve.

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