Understanding Comparative and Contributory Negligence

Accidents can impact a person’s daily life to a great extent. The injuries they sustain may prevent them from performing even everyday activities. This can also hurt the person mentally since they will need the help of others to do simple activities.

It is safe to say that accidents can cause physical, mental, and emotional losses. Luckily, you can recover from these losses easily, thanks to personal injury law. However, the plaintiff (the victim) must prove their claim to obtain compensation for their losses.

This is why hiring a personal injury lawyer is important. According to Midwest Injury Lawyers, the chances of winning a personal injury case and obtaining fair compensation increase significantly when you hire a lawyer.

A lawyer knows the ins and outs of personal injury law. They know the laws that can change the course of your case. You may read all you want about personal injury law, but that is not enough to win a personal injury case.

Every state has its own set of rules when it comes to personal injury law. Only a person who knows these local laws can help you.

One aspect in which most states differ is the type of negligence rule they follow. There are four types:

  • Gross negligence
  • Comparative negligence
  • Contributory negligence
  • Vicarious negligence

This article discusses contributory negligence and comparative negligence.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence has become rare in the US. Basically, if the victim has some degree of error in causing the accident, then they cannot file a claim. Even if they are liable for 1% of the accident, they cannot file a claim.

This is a pretty harsh rule for victims.

Imagine not being able to file a claim because you were 10% responsible for an accident. Only five states currently follow this rule in the US. Most states have replaced contributory negligence with some form of comparative negligence rule.

Defendants often use this rule to their advantage. This is a pretty common defense in the five states where contributory negligence is followed.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence allows victims to claim compensation even if they are somewhat responsible for the accident. The percentage for which the victim is responsible for the accident will be deducted from the total compensation.

For example, if the victim is 20% responsible, then 20% of the total compensation will be deducted.

This is a fair rule for both defendants and victims.

Comparative negligence is of two types:

  • Pure comparative negligence
  • Modified comparative negligence

Pure Comparative Negligence

Pure comparative negligence is the most widely accepted negligence rule. Many states choose to follow this rule over contributory negligence and the modified comparative negligence rule.

According to this rule, the victim can file a claim and obtain compensation even if they are mostly responsible for the accident. The percentage of their liability will be deducted from the total compensation.

Modified Comparative Negligence

All the rules of comparative negligence apply to the modified comparative negligence rule. The only difference is that if the victim is more than 50% at fault for the car accident, they can’t file a claim.

So, if the victim is 51% at fault for an accident, they cannot file a claim.

This is also a fair rule since the defendant doesn’t have to pay a penny if the other person is more responsible for the accident than the defendant.

Like the comparative and contributory negligence rules, there are several other complex rules that you need to know about to win a personal injury claim. Hiring an experienced local lawyer is important to winning a personal injury case.

A Quick Recap

  • You cannot file a claim even if you are 1% at fault for the accident in a contributory negligence state
  • You can obtain compensation despite your share of fault in a pure comparative negligence state
  • You cannot obtain compensation if you are more than 50% at fault for an accident in a modified comparative negligence state
  • Hire a lawyer to guide you through the personal injury case and obtain fair compensation
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