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

Get the facts on comparative fault and contributory negligence from the Dressie Law Firm. Learn how these legal principles could impact your personal injury case. Call us for a personalized consultation.

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

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. Award-winning, compassionate, and experienced attorneys at Dressie Law Firm can fight for you and bring you the results you anticipate. Contact us today and 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 rule, 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. Examples of states following this rule include California, Florida, and New York.

    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 their percentage of fault, which is 70%.

    Modified Comparative Negligence

    The modified comparative negligence rule 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, it’s crucial to work with an experienced attorney to protect your rights. Many insurance companies will purposefully inflate your percentage of your fault to reduce your payout.

    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 an injured plaintiff any compensation if they contributed as little as 1% to the accident and their injuries.

    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 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.

    Comparative Fault vs Contributory Negligence in MVAs

    The distinctions between comparative fault and contributory 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 find yourself 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 photos of the scene, 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 or contributory negligence. Your attorney will help you determine if suing when part of the accident is your fault is in your interest.

    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!