"I admit that I was wrong, but so was the other driver…and now he wants to take me to court"
Parties in a motor vehicle accident sometimes tend to rush into taking matters to court instead of settling same outside of court and subsequently saving themselves a lot of money in legal costs.
In a motor vehicle accident a court may order an apportionment of damages if the evidence produced by both parties makes it clear that both parties were both liable in causing the accident. If both parties suffered damages to their respective vehicles, a court may order that each party fix their own vehicle or a calculation will be made if one party's damages exceeds the other's damages, provided that it has been proven to which extent (%) both parties were negligent in causing the accident. In certain instances another party who was more negligent than the other will be liable to pay the difference in the costs of damages to the other, depending on the court's calculations.
A simple scenario which best illustrates the above mentioned would be the following:
Mr. Volkswagen collided with Mrs. Mercedes Benz. The damages to the vehicle of the first mentioned amounts to R150 000 and the damages to the latter's vehicle amounts to R160 000. The court found that Mrs. Benz was 60% negligent and that Mr. Volkswagen was 40% negligent.
The apportionment of damages calculation shall be:
Mr, Volkswagen: R150 000 X 60% = R90 000
Mrs. Mercedes Benz: R160 000 X 40% = R64 000
R90 000 – R64 000 = R26 000.
Meaning Mr.Volkswagen will be entitled to R26 000 from Mrs. Benz.
The legislation which deals with such matters is the Apportionment of Damages Act 34 of 1956. Chapter 1(1)(a) of the Act states the following:
Where any person suffers damage which is caused partly by his own fault and partly by the fault of any other person, a claim in respect of that damage shall not be defeated by reason of the fault of the claimant but the damages recoverable in respect thereof shall be reduced by the court to such extent as the court may deem just and equitable having regard to the degree in which the claimant was at fault in relation to the damage.
In light of the above discussion, If both parties know that they were both equally/unequally at fault in a motor vehicle accident, it is advisable for both parties to settle their dispute outside of court if possible, as compared to incurring legal costs only for the court to order an apportionment of damages between the parties.