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Can a driver who is partly at fault recover damages in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, when someone is injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver they have the right to sue that driver for damages. But not every accident is 100 percent the fault of one driver. Sometimes both drivers are partly at fault in causing the crash. What happens then? Can a driver who is partly at fault in causing the accident still recover damages from another driver who is also at fault?

In Louisiana, the answer is "yes." Louisiana has a "comparative fault" law that allows an injured party to recover compensation from a party whose negligence was a factor in causing the accident, even if the victim was partly at fault. Under the comparative fault law, the jury assigns a percentage of fault to each driver. The party seeking damages is allowed to recover compensation, but that compensation is reduced by their own percentage of fault.

For example, let's say Driver A and Driver B have a collision. Driver A is injured and sues Driver B. The evidence shows the accident was caused in part because Driver A failed to use their turn signal, and in part because Driver B was speeding. The jury decides Driver A was 20 percent at fault, Driver B was 80 percent at fault and Driver A sustained $100,000 in damages.

Under Louisiana law, Driver A can recover compensation from Driver B, but the compensation will be reduced by Driver A's 20 percent fault. Out of the total damages of $100,000, Driver A will recover $80,000.

Louisiana's law is known as a "pure" comparative fault law. This means that Driver A could recover compensation from Driver B even if Driver A was more at fault than Driver B. Thus, if we reverse the percentages in the example above, making Driver A 80 percent at fault and Driver B 20 percent, Driver A will still recover but will only collect $20,000 in damages.

Source: Louisiana State Legislature, La. Civ. Code art. 2323, accessed July 24, 2016

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