Personal Injury 101: How Does Comparative Negligence Work?

Personal Injury CasesWhen an incident has resulted in injuries, among the first common questions in the minds of people involved is “Who’s to blame?”

Every state adheres to the comparative fault principles, commonly known as shared fault. In the event that several parties are allegedly at fault, responsibility will be allocated to each party and other potentially responsible individuals. Depending on the state where the personal injury incident occurred, the court will use either comparative negligence or contributory negligence when allocating fault.

This article will focus on comparative negligence.

What Exactly is Comparative Negligence?

The states that observe comparative negligence typically uses pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence, or gross or slight negligence rule. With pure comparative negligence, used in California and Alaska, a claimant can claim damages from the suspect minus the claimant’s responsibility ratio. To illustrate, if the damage award is $100,000, but the claimant is considered to be 30% responsible, he or she can only recover $70,000 and is responsible for the remaining $30,000. A claimant will still be able to recover 5% if he or she was found to be 95% at fault.

Modified comparative negligence, on the other hand, is practiced differently from one state to another. In Maine and Colorado. for example, plaintiffs won’t recover any damages if they’ve been found to be 50% or equally responsible, or over 50% at fault in an incident. In some states, however, such as Utah, plaintiffs can’t recover damages if they’re found to be more than 51% at fault than the other party, says personal injury lawyers in Provo.

There are however some variations to this concept, such as in Michigan. If plaintiffs are 51% responsible, their economic damages will be decreased, but non-economic damages won’t be awarded at all.

Some Exceptions

Currently, only South Dakota adheres to slight or gross negligence. With this rule, both the defendant and plaintiff’s fault percentages will only be compared if the negligence of the plaintiff is found to be “slight” and the negligence of the defendant is found to be “gross”. If the plaintiff’s responsibility exceeds this “slight” percentage, no recovery will be awarded.

Keep in mind that there other exemptions to the comparative negligence rule and these will significantly vary from state to state. In addition, some states restrict the kinds of cases where this rule can apply, so it’s best to speak to a personal injury attorney in your state if you’re facing or claiming a personal injury case.