If you have suffered a serious injury in an accident and there are multiple defendants, the Fair Share Act (FSA) may apply. The FSA outlines which defendants are liable for what portion of the damages after an accident results in injury. For example, car accidents can often have multiple defendants, from other motorists to companies that manufactured potentially defective car parts. This article will explain how the FSA works, why it matters for you, and some notable exceptions to the Act.
How the Fair Share Act Works
In many ways, the FSA is a “common sense” act that states that each defendant is liable for their share of the damages in an injury case. For example, let’s say that you were injured in a car accident with two other drivers and they were each found to be 50% at fault for your injuries. This means that when you are awarded damages, each of those two defendants would only be liable for their 50%. Or, if there were three defendants whose fault was determined as 50%, 30%, and 20%, they would each only be liable to cover their respective percentage of the damages.
Why Does the Fair Share Act Matter for the Injured Party?
So far, it may seem like the FSA would only matter to the defendants in an accident injury case. But the reality is that it can benefit the victim as well. Depending on the insurance maximums and financial situations of the defendants, it may be difficult to obtain the full sum that you were awarded after an accident. The FSA spreads the liability for damages across multiple defendants so they each individually have to pay a lesser, more manageable sum. Think of it this way, if you are awarded $250,000, you are more likely to receive $125,000 from each of two defendants than the whole sum from just one defendant.
Joint and Several Liability in an Injurious Accident
One of the exceptions to the FSA is known as joint and several liability. A defendant can be held jointly and severally liable if the fault attributed to them for the injury is 60% or more. When a defendant is held jointly and severally liable, it means that they can be on the hook for 100% of the damages. However, just because the fault of a specific defendant exceeds the 60% threshold does not mean that they must be held liable for the entire sum of damages — simply that they can be.
When is Finding a Defendant Jointly and Severally Liable Advantageous?
In some situations, there is going to be a defendant you know can cover the full cost of your damages easier than other defendants may be able to cover even part of the costs. For example, let’s say that you were injured in an accident that was caused by a commercial driver and another motorist. If the driver of the commercial vehicle is found to be 60% at fault, it may be a good idea to hold their employer jointly and severally liable because they have a lot of money and high insurance maximums. A large business will have a much easier time covering the costs. If instead, you attempted to get the other 40% of the damages from the individual motorist, you may end up receiving a lower sum overall if their insurance won’t cover it and they can’t make up the difference.
Comparative Negligence and the Fair Share Act
Just earlier this year, the Pennsylvania courts determined that there is another qualifier that must be met for the FSA to apply. In Spencer v. Johnson (2021) it was stated that the Act only applies when the injured party is also partially at fault. Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence system, which means that your compensation will be reduced by a percentage based on how at fault you are determined to be. If you are 25% at fault for your injuries, you can receive up to 75% of the damages. But if you are 51% or more at fault, you will be barred from bringing a claim.
Spencer v. Johnson Benefits Accident Victims
Because the FSA does not apply if the injured party is not partially at fault for their injuries, it means they can be more flexible in how they seek damages from the defendants. As long as you are not partially at fault, you can find any one of the defendants jointly and severally liable. This is extremely beneficial if one of the defendants is a larger company that has not reached the 60% fault threshold. However, if one of the defendants is not a company, it still may be a better option to follow the FSA’s breakdown of liability.
While the Fair Share Act is primarily in place to protect defendants from being liable for more than their fair share of damages in an accident that causes injury, it can actually benefit the injured party as well. In some cases, it can be easier to obtain the full amount of compensation you deserve if the liability for it is split between multiple defendants. But in other cases, holding a single defendant jointly and severally liable can also be the best option — and the recent ruling in Spencer v. Johnson gives victims another way to do this.
Donaghue & Labrum Trial Lawyers
If you have been injured in an automotive accident, defective product accident, or even a slip and fall accident, the experienced attorneys of Donaghue & Labrum can help. We always work to secure the best outcome for our clients, whether that comes in the form of a settlement or litigation. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your injury claim.