What You Need to Know About Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence

Understanding Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Claims with Dressie Law Firm

Understanding comparative fault and contributory negligence: critical legal concepts in personal injury cases. Learn how they affect liability.

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Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence Laws

Comparative fault and contributory negligence are legal doctrines in tort law designed to allocate responsibility for damages among parties involved in a personal injury lawsuit. Contributory negligence prohibits a plaintiff from recovering any damages if they are found to have contributed to their injuries. In contrast, comparative fault allows for a more flexible approach, enabling proportional allocation of damages based on the percentage of fault assigned to each party.

45 states in the US follow the comparative negligence doctrine, 33 of which follow the modified version. Pure contributory negligence is used in four states: Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Georgia follows the modified comparative negligence rule, which governs how car accident fault is determined in Atlanta.

If you sustained injuries due to someone’s negligence, such as in a car accident, you have the right to file a personal injury claim and recover damages. The award-winning, compassionate, and experienced personal injury lawyers at Dressie Law Firm can fight for you and bring you the results you anticipate. Contact us today to discuss your case for free!

    What Is Comparative Negligence?

    Comparative fault is a legal doctrine in tort law that recognizes that multiple parties may contribute to an incident, so a victim can still recover damages if found partially at fault. There are two main types of comparative negligence: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence.

    Pure Comparative Negligence

    In states applying the pure comparative negligence rules, plaintiffs can seek damages even if they are predominantly at fault. The amount they can recover is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned by the court. California, Florida, and New York are examples of states following this rule.

    For instance, in a motor vehicle accident, if a plaintiff is deemed 70% at fault for the collision while the defendant is assigned 30% responsibility, the plaintiff can still pursue damages. However, the awarded damages would be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault, which is 70%. If the total damages awarded are $100,000, the plaintiff would only receive $30,000.

    Modified Comparative Negligence

    The modified comparative fault is more nuanced and consists of two subtypes: the 50 percent bar rule and the 51 percent bar rule.

    • 50 Percent Bar Rule: States applying the 50 percent bar rule bar plaintiffs from recovering damages if their fault is found to be 50% or more.

    • 51 Percent Bar Rule: States applying the 51 percent bar rule prohibit plaintiffs from recovering damages if they are assigned 51% or more of the fault.

    Georgia, a modified comparative negligence state, follows the 50% rule. If you have a personal injury case in Georgia, working with an experienced attorney is crucial to protect your rights. Many insurance companies will purposefully inflate your percentage of your fault to reduce your payout. A skilled attorney can help you build a strong case and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you receive fair compensation.

    What Is Contributory Negligence?

    A contributory negligence doctrine bars the injured party from recovering damages if they share some degree of fault for the incident leading to their injuries. In personal injury cases, this concept can be a crucial factor in deciding the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover.

    For example, a jury may deny compensation to an injured plaintiff if they contributed as little as 1% to the accident and their injuries. However, some states have adopted a modified form of contributory negligence, known as comparative fault, allowing plaintiffs to recover damages even if they have contributed to the incident.

    Contributory Negligence Rule vs. Comparative Negligence Rule

    The fundamental difference between contributory negligence and comparative negligence lies in the repercussions for the injured party when the former is found partially responsible for an accident.

    Contributory negligence takes a stringent stance, barring plaintiffs entirely from recovering damages if any degree of fault is attributed to them. It operates on a binary premise of either total compensation or none.

    On the other hand, the comparative negligence doctrine introduces a more nuanced approach. While a plaintiff can still pursue damages, the final award is proportionally diminished by their percentage of fault. For instance, if a plaintiff is deemed 30% at fault, a $100,000 award would be reduced to $70,000.

    The comparative negligence approach is considered more fair and reasonable, as it considers all parties’ contributions to the incident.

    Comparative Fault vs Contributory Negligence in MVAs

    The distinctions between contributory and comparative negligence significantly impact the victims’ ability to recover compensation.

    Consider a motor vehicle accident where Driver A stops at a stop sign with malfunctioning brake lights, and Driver B, distracted by their phone, rear-ends Driver A.

    In a jurisdiction following contributory negligence, despite Driver B’s primary fault, Driver A’s partial responsibility due to the malfunctioning brake lights could potentially bar them from recovering damages.

    Conversely, in comparative negligence states, the focus shifts to the percentage of fault each driver bears. If Driver B is deemed 80% at fault for distracted driving and Driver A 20% at fault for the brake lights issue, Driver A can still seek compensation, but their potential recovery would be reduced by their percentage of fault.

    What to Do if You’re Partially At Fault

    Taking specific steps is crucial for safeguarding your interests if you are partially at fault in an MVA. Stay calm and cooperative at the scene, refraining from immediate admissions of fault. Gather pertinent information, including witness contact details and scene photos, to build a comprehensive account of the incident.

    Exchange details with involved parties and consult with a legal professional versed in personal injury law to navigate the complexities and understand local laws regarding comparative fault doctrine or contributory negligence system. Your personal injury attorney will help you determine if suing when part of the accident is your fault is in your interest.

    Comparative Fault vs. Contributory Negligence: Which One Applies in Your Case?

    Understanding the legal nuances and differences between comparative fault and contributory negligence is essential for personal injury plaintiffs. It can significantly impact their ability to recover compensation, making it crucial to work with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help navigate these intricacies.

    Whether your case will be decided under a comparative fault or contributory negligence doctrine depends on your state’s laws. It’s vital to consult with a legal professional familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction to understand how they may affect your personal injury claim. They can help you build a strong case and fight for the compensation you deserve, even if you are partially at fault for the incident.

    Dressie Law Firm Can Help You

    Our personal injury lawyers at Dressie Law Firm are committed to providing legal clarity and guidance to personal injury victims, empowering them to make informed decisions about their legal recourse.

    If you find yourself grappling with the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, medical malpractice, or a dog bite, we encourage you to reach out for a free case evaluation. Our law firm is here to provide the personalized and experienced legal support you need to recover fair and equitable compensation for your losses.

    The Dressie Law Firm Can Help You

    If you or a loved one is a victim of a reckless or negligent driver, we want you to know that the law is on your side and so is the Dressie Law Firm.

    Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!