The lawyers of Gilloon, Wright & Hamel, P.C. practice personal injury law involving auto accidents all over the state of Iowa. Call or email us now and one of our experienced attorneys would be happy to answer any questions you have and talk about helping you with your Iowa auto accident case.
This section will provide an overview of Iowa law relating to auto accidents. The details of Iowa auto accident law are very important and very complex and are not covered in this overview. Additionally, small factual differences between cases can be critical. Therefore, you should not take any action based on this website without obtaining advice from a knowledgeable attorney.COMPARATIVE FAULT
An important starting point in every auto accident case is to determine which party or parties are at fault for the collision, and what percentage of fault will be assigned to each party. Iowa Code Chapter 668 sets out the Iowa comparative fault law. In the Iowa system the jury is instructed to divide the 100% of available fault among each party who contributed to the accident.
This apportionment of fault is then used to determine what percentage of damages each defendant must pay, and what percentage of damages the injured party can collect.
The most frequent car accidents involve two cars. The injured party can be found to share some of the fault for the collision. If an injured party is assigned a percentage of fault, then the amount of damages they are entitled to recover is reduced by that same percentage. By way of example, if the injured party is found to be 10% at fault, and the other driver is 90% at fault, then the injured party can only collect 90% of their damages.
This proportional recovery system continues so that if an injured party is 20% at fault, then they can only collect 80% of their damages. If the injured party is 30% at fault, then they can only collect 70% of their damages. If the injured party is 40% at fault, then they can only collect 60% of their damages. Iowa has what is called a modified comparative fault system and the division of fault becomes critical at the 50% versus 50% level. If an injured party is found to be 50% at fault, they can still collect 50% of their damages. However, if an injured party is found to be 51% or more at fault then they are not entitled to collect any damages at all.
The same general comparative fault principles apply if there are multiple parties that are responsible for the collision such as in a three car accident. Again, as long as the injured party is no more than 50% at fault, he can still collect the remaining percentage of damages from the other parties.
Another important issue that comes up in cases with more than two defendants involves the concept of "joint and several liability." The Iowa law on joint and several liability is set out in Iowa Code Section 668.4. If a defendant is found to be jointly and severally liable this means that they can be required to pay all of the recoverable damages, even if it is beyond their own percentage of fault. The important limit here is that a defendant has to be found to be 50% or more at fault in order to be jointly and severally liable. Additionally, under the Iowa system joint and several liability only applies to economic damages such as loss of earnings, and not for any non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.STANDARDS OF CARE FOR DRIVING
In automobile litigation the basis for being assigned fault comes from failing to drive safely. Iowa appellate court cases and the Iowa statutes both provide specific standards of care that all drivers should comply with.
The primary "common law" duties establish by the Iowa courts are:
- Duty to use ordinary care. This means a driver has a duty to act as a reasonably prudent person would under the circumstances.
- Duty to maintain proper look out. This means exercising the degree of watchfulness that a prudent person would exercise under the circumstances.
- Duty to keep one's vehicle under control. This means that a driver must maintain control of his vehicle so it can maneuvered in the way that a reasonably prudent person would want to under the circumstances.
Additionally, violation of a motor vehicle traffic statute also shows that the driver was negligent or at fault. Most of the Iowa statutes relating to the rules of the road are set out in Iowa Code Chapter 321. The general categories of rules that come up most frequently in auto accident cases relate to:
- Speed in excess of the statutory limits.
- Traveling at a speed greater than will allow a driver to stop within the assured cleared distance ahead.
- Failure to use ordinary care where conditions require that a vehicle be operated at less than the statutory speed limit.
- Failure to drive on the right half of the road.
- Unsafe passing.
- Failure to obey traffic control signals.
- Failure to yield while making a left hand turn.
- Failure to obey a stop or yield sign.
- Failure to yield to a pedestrian or to exercise ordinary care to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
- Operating a motor vehicle without proper equipment.
- Operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner.
- Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
In a motor vehicle accident without a fatality an injured party and his family would potentially be entitled to recover the following elements of damages:
- The damage to their motor vehicle and the cost of a rental vehicle for a reasonable length of time.
- Past medical expenses.
- The present value of future medical expenses.
- Past lost wages or lost time from a business.
- Future loss of earning capacity.
- Past loss of function of the mind and body.
- Future loss of function of the mind and body.
- Past physical and mental and pain suffering.
- Future physical and mental pain and suffering.
- A child's loss of consortium because of an injury to a parent.
- A spouse's loss of consortium because of an injury to a spouse.
In many situations the insurance carrier of the owner of the adverse vehicle will be the primary source of recovery.
However, depending on the specific facts, it is also possible to obtain recovery from other sources. For example, if the defendant driver was acting as the employee or agent of another party, the principal or employer could also be responsible for damages.
Additionally, if an injured party is covered by uninsured motorist coverage, or underinsured motorist coverage this can be an additional source of recovery.
The purpose of uninsured motorist coverage is to provide compensation to an injured party who is damaged by a defendant who does not have any insurance coverage.
The purpose of underinsured motorist coverage is to provide additional compensation to an injured party who is hurt by a defendant who has some insurance coverage, but not enough insurance coverage to completely compensate the injured party.
Most typically the source of uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage is that the injured party is the owner or a family member of an owner of a vehicle which has insurance with these coverages. However, uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage can be found in other ways, and this potential source of recovery always needs to be carefully investigated.
Insurance policies that provide uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage frequently have provisions requiring that notice of such potential claims be given as soon as possible to the insurance company. Therefore, it is important to promptly investigate the possibility of whether such coverages exist, and also comply with any notice requirements.
Call or email us now, and our lawyers would be happy to talk to you about your Iowa motor vehicle accident case and answer your questions without charge or obligation.