The amount of money you can claim for after a car accident may be limited if you share some of the blame.
Trying to work out who is legally responsible for an accident can be quite tricky. The individual who is making a claim needs to prove that the defendant was somehow negligent. Even if it is possible to do this, the defective may still be able to avoid full or partial liability by establishing a defense.
Comparative and Contributory Negligence
Comparative and contributory negligence systems, when related to car accidents, are designed to be used when both parties have somehow contributed to the accident. In other words, when they have both been negligent. The way liability is used when both of the parties are thought to have contributed in some way to the accident ultimately depends on the state you live in. Some states happily follow a contributory negligence system, whereas others (Most states, in fact) use a comparative negligence system. Here’s a little bit more about how these defenses work:
A judge or jury will determine how negligent the plaintiff is after they have decided whether the defendant was also negligent. If it is found that the defendant was not negligent, the case will be over, and the judge or jury will not need to determine if the plaintiff was negligent.
If it is found that the defendant was negligent the judge or jury will try to determine if the plaintiff was negligent too. If the judge or jury finds that the plaintiff was negligent they then have to work out how negligent the plaintiff was and compare it to the defendant’s negligence.
For example, the judge or jury may find that the defendant was 55% negligent, and the plaintiff 45% negligent for the plaintiff’s injuries. This means that the plaintiff was 45% at fault for their injuries.
One of the most important things about cases such as these is that need to be understood in comparative negligence cases is that the plaintiff’s negligence will affect the amount of compensation they receive by their percentage of fault. This means that if the plaintiff would have ordinarily received $10,000 in compensation, they are only likely to receive 45% less, meaning they will only receive $5,500 instead.
Comparative Negligence: The Different Types
Many parts of the United States use what’s known as a comparative negligence rule that works to calculate the damages under a specific formula, looking at every party’s degree of fault. If for example you were found to be 50% at fault for a car accident, any compensation you receive is likely to be reduced by 50%. This means that if the damages add up to $20,000, it’s likely that you will only receive $10,000. However, many states fall into two categories when damage awards are calculated, these categories are ‘Modified comparative negligence’ and ‘Pure comparative negligence’.
Modified comparative negligence – Here a plaintiff is able to claim compensation if they were only 50% or less responsible for the accident. Some states require that the plaintiff is less than 50% responsible for their accident.
Pure comparative negligence – Here a plaintiff can receive damages regardless of how much they were at fault.
In states that follow this type of negligence, plaintiffs who are found to be even a little at fault for their injury may not receive any compensation as part of their personal injury case. Even if you found to be just 5% at fault, you would not receive any damage for your claim.
If you have had a slip and fall and injured yourself on another person’s property the owner of the property may be liable and face blame for your injury, however, they may claim that the accident was your fault and thereby avoid being held liable. Knowing how comparative negligence works could help you to determine whether you are likely to receive compensation for your slip and fall injuries.
Contributory Negligence Laws
Contributory negligence laws are not quite as forgiving as comparative negligence laws. This is because, in the states that do follow contributory negligence laws victims who are only partly to blame may not get any compensation at all, The good news is there are only 5 states or jurisdictions that have the contributory negligence law, these states are:
- District of Columbia
- Maryland and
Establishing the Victim’s Negligence
If you wish to establish comparative or contributory negligence there are a few things that as a defendant you will need to do. You will need to prove that the plaintiff through their own negligence contributed to the car accident in some way.
Every single person on the road, whether they are a pedestrian, car passenger or motorist needs to use reasonable care in order to protect their own safety, and that of others. For example, if a victim of a car accident does not (or fails to) protect their own safety and that of others they are acting negligently and will be considered somewhat at fault for their injuries.
The Negligence Must Have Somehow Contributed to the Accident
The defendant will need to show that the plaintiff was negligent and that their negligence somehow contributed to the car accident. If it is found that their behavior made their injuries worse, but it did not cause the accident, the defendant will not win the case, or have the case dropped against them.
If you were involved in a car accident and you think someone was partially to blame, please speak to a lawyer as soon as you can.
If you have sustained an injury as a result of a car accident that was another driver’s fault, please speak to a personal injury lawyer as you may have a personal injury claim.
If you are currently suffering from a personal injury and are unable to read ‘Defenses Used after a Car Accident: Contributory and Comparative Negligence’ please watch our Injury Pedia video so you can gain the Personal Injury Information and Answers you are seeking.