Proper investigation, documentation and negotiation of
files using the principles of comparative negligence.
Four Types of Negligence
Five (5) states still recognize the pure contributory negligence rule,
which says that a damaged party cannot recover any damages if he is
even one (1) percent at fault.
Thirteen (13) states recognize the pure comparative fault rule, which
allows a damaged party to recover even if it is 99 percent at fault,
though the recovery is reduced by the damaged party's degree of fault.
Eleven (11) states follow the 50 percent bar rule, meaning a damaged
party cannot recover if he is 50 percent or more at fault, but if he is 49
percent or less at fault, he can recover, though his recovery is reduced
by his degree of fault.
Twenty-one (21) states follow the 51 percent bar rule, under which a
damaged party cannot recover if he is 51 percent or more at fault, but
can recover if he is 50 percent or less at fault. Again, the recovery
would be reduced by degree of fault.
The omission to do something which a reasonable man,
guided by those ordinary considerations which ordinarily
regulate human affairs, would do, or the doing of something
which a reasonable and prudent man would not do.
-Blacks Law Dictionary
Recreating an accurate picture of what happened.
All occupant statements
All witness statements
Assessment of credibility
Examination of physical evidence
Determination of cause of accident
Determination of Cause
Primary determinations of liability:
Did any party violate a state or local statute?
Did this violation have any bearing on the accident?
Was a tort committed?
Who is the tortfeasor?
Are their joint tortfeasors?
Are their empty chair defendant’s?
Were any parties responsible who were not involved in the accident?
What was the proximate cause?
That which, in a natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any
efficient intervening cause, produces the injury and without which the
result would not have occurred.
Determination of Cause (cont.)
Secondary determinations of liability:
An independent cause which intervenes between the
original wrongful act or omission and the injury, which turns
aside the natural sequence of events and produces a result
which would not otherwise have followed and which could
not have been reasonably anticipated.
Last Clear Chance
Did the part with the last clear chance to avoid the accident
do so? Are they liable for their failure to act on this chance?
Was the instrumentality maintained in such a condition that
it was dangerous and this danger was known.
One who is injured in a voluntary attempt to rescue a person
whose life is imperiled by the ngeligence of another, is
entitled to recovery from the negligent person.
Assumption of Risk
The ability to reasonably anticipate if one’s actions may
result on harm or injury.
These concepts are a general overview;
State laws do vary widely;
The circumstances of any accident are
unique and it is imperative that the adjuster
address each and every potential duty owed
and breached by all potential parties to the
Adjusters must understand nuances within
their specific venue and apply these concepts
to that venue.
Duties of a Motorist
Duty to Avoid an Accident
A driver operating a vehicle on a public
highway does not have exclusive right to use
the road. The duty of care imposed upon the
motorist requires the exercise of reasonable
care and caution for the rights and safety of
others using the highway. This duty is owed
to the operators and occupants of other
vehicles on the highway, occupants of the
operator’s own car and pedestrians, as well as
to owners of property either on the highway or
adjacent to it.
Assured Clear Distance
The application of this result requires a driver
to keep his car under such control that he can
stop within the distance which he can clearly
see, should such a stop be necessary to
avoid an accident.
Same Direction of Travel
When two or more cars are traveling in the same direction, the
lead car has the superior right of way. The driver, however,
must exercise care for the safety of the occupants of the cars
following him by:
1) Giving timely notice of stop or reduction in speed.
2) Giving notice of a turn as well as a chance in lanes.
The driver of the lagging vehicle is also charged with the duty of
exercising reasonable care with respect to the lead vehicle by:
1) Being prepared to avoid danger in case of any
movement on the part of the lead vehicle which is
2) Following other cars at a reasonably safe distance.
Opposite Direction of Travel
Vehicles must be driven on the right-hand
side of the road and are required to stay to
the right of the center line. When a collision
occurs on the wrong side of the road, a
presumption of negligence arises against the
driver of the vehicle who is on the wrong side.
Require greater duty of care than the open road.
Maintain proper lookout
Sounding horn if necessary
Duty to obey traffic signals
Yield right of way where required
Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks with a green light
The motorist who enters first has the right of way
Vehicles arriving simultaneously shall give the right of way to the vehicle to their
Entering from a private way
Vehicles on the highway have the right of way
When a private way crosses a sidewalk, the
motorist must stop before driving on the
sidewalk. Pedestrians on the sidewalk have
an absolute right of way. Failure to yield,
resulting in injury to a pedestrian is
Pictures of accident location from all
Measure the skid marks
Look for intervening causes (shrubs, signs,
Canvass for witnesses
Right turns should be made as close to the right curb
When making a left turn at an intersection the
motorist is obliged to exercise a high degree of care
and to seek an opportune and safe time to turn.
Once in the intersection the motorist is required to
yield the right of way to vehicles approaching from
the opposite direction.
However, where a drive has proceeded fare enough
into the intersection to have “occupied” it, other
vehicles approaching from the opposite direction
must yield the right of way.
Duty to Reduce Speed or Stop
A motorist is required to exercise care and prudence in the
operation of the vehicle.
The motorist may be obligated to reduce speed or stop when:
The road or weather conditions are such that it is hazardous
to drive at a normal speed. The fact that the motorist was
driving at a speed within the posted limits will never
exonerate/excuse the motorist from the duty to exercise
Another motorist on the highway is in a position of danger or
The windshield clouds or ices to the point that the motorist
A motorist blinded by headlights from an approaching
vehicle. If an accident should occur, the motorist whose
lights caused the blindness is negligent and did contribute to
The skidding of a vehicle is not negligence or
evidence of negligence. In cases involving a skid,
the question of negligence will depend upon the
operator’s conduct in operating the vehicle.
When a motorist is confronted with an emergency, he
must take whatever course of action is available to
avoid an accident.
The actions taken may even include violation of the
rules of the road. The violation will not constitute
negligence if the following evidence is produced:
The violation was justified under the circumstances.
The motorist’s failure to exercise care did not create
The motorist exercised reasonable care in facing the
Note that this defense is not available to the motorist
who creates the emergency.
Obstruction of Vision
Motorist owes a greater duty of care when
vision is obstructed.
Potential negligence on parties who caused
A passing vehicle is under a duty to exercise
reasonable care to avoid an accident and to
observe all passing regulations.
Failure of a motorist to comply is evidence of
A motorist being passed must give way to the
passing vehicle and not increase his speed
until completely passed by the overtaking
Motorists and pedestrians have equal right to
use the highway.
Pedestrians have increased rights in marked
crosswalks and with signals.
Pedestrians can be liable for their actions (i.e.
Passengers conduct determines their liability.
Intoxication of the passenger does not necessarily constitute
comparative negligence. However, factors such as
assumption of risk should be considered.
Intoxication of the driver may result in comparative
negligence on the passenger if he knew of the driver’s
Duty to warn of danger would apply in situations where the
passenger knew that the driver is not competent to operate
Riding in a dangerous position may result in negligence on
Interference with the operation of a vehicle.
Vehicle defects known to the passenger.
Adjuster must make a decision and document
in their claims system;
Explanation of liability determination must be
clear enough for an independent third party to
understand the rationale;
Liability roundtables should occur in branches
on a weekly basis where difficult situations
can be discussed.
Joint and Several Liability
Generally, this provides that a plaintiff may recover all
damages from any of the negligent defendants
regardless of their individual share of the liability.
“Deep Pocket Rule.”
Wide variations in the application state to state,
including some states in which joint and several has
been abolished or limited to portions of a claim, such
as economic damages.
Adjusters are responsible for understanding their
jurisdiction. J & S Liability can have a significant
impact on the resolution strategy.
Liability Write Up
Detail the duties owed by each party
Detail the duties breached by each party
Customer needs to understand the law that is
applicable in your state.
Liability law should be explained during first
Customer may opt to go through own carrier
if there is a chance for comparative.
Don’t leverage the PD with the BI.
Don’t take the path of least resistance.
If the adjuster cannot resolve liability with the other
party then utilizing the assistance of Sequoia could
Expertise- Over 60 years of combined experience
amongst the principals;
Immediate bottom line impact.