Unless your case is a “strict liability case,” some other person’s negligence must be the cause of your injuries in order for you to win a case. “Strict liability” only applies in a few types of injury cases – such as injury due to defectively designed or manufactured products. In most other injury cases you can only collect if the other person is negligent.
Negligence means that the other person’s behavior was below some standard of care or was objectively unreasonable. In a car accident case, the person who is at fault is usually negligent in one of the following ways: traveling at too high a speed for the circumstances; traveling too close; failing to maintain control of his/her vehicle or failing to keep a proper lookout. These behaviors are all below the standard that we expect a driver to adhere to.
The violation of one of the rules of the road can be an additional basis for negligence. Speeding, running a red light or a stop sign are common examples.
If the at-fault driver in an auto collision was on-the-job when the accident occurred, his/her employer will be liable even though the employer was not personally at fault. This is known as “respondeat superior” liability.
It is possible for both parties involved to be negligent. In Oregon, to recover a plaintiff must be no more than 50% at fault. If both parties are negligent, the defendant will only have to pay a portion of the damages.
For example, if a plaintiff’s case is valued at $100,000 and the plaintiff is found to be 40% at fault and the defendant 60% at fault, the defendant is responsible for paying 60% of the damages, or $60,000, rather than the full amount. If on the other hand the plaintiff is found to be 55% at fault, the plaintiff is not entitled to collect any money.