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Comparative Negligence: Here’s What You Need To Know

Have you gotten into a car accident that wasn’t entirely your fault? You might be liable for what is called comparative negligence. This means that the other party involved is partly responsible so you won’t have to pay all of the damages that they’re seeking. It is a bit more complicated than that, however, so here’s everything that you need to know about comparative negligence. It’s important to know that there are many aspects to it and that there are different forms of it that apply in different states.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

If you speak with any personal injury lawyer, they will tell you that comparative negligence is a principle in tort law. It establishes that each party is at fault based on their respective contributions to the accident they were involved in. This way, blame can be assigned to each party so that insurance claims can be filed accordingly. Damages are then assigned based on the degrees of each individual’s negligence.

Pure Comparative Negligence

There are different types of comparative negligence, the first of which is pure comparative negligence. This allows the plaintiff to recover damages even if they are 99% at fault for the accident. They are able to recover 1% of the damages from the defendant, though this may seem unfair. Only about twelve states use pure comparative negligence, including New York and California.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Under modified comparative negligence, plaintiffs are not allowed to recover any monetary damages if they are found at fault beyond a certain percentage. This percentage can be different in those states that follow modified comparative negligence. About ten states use the 50% rule: plaintiffs are not allowed to recover damages if their fault percentage is 50% or more. Twenty-three states use the 51% rule.

Slight Or Gross Negligence

South Dakota is the only state that uses the rule of slight/gross negligence. Slight and gross contributions are used to replace the fault percentages. The rule works like this: the award for a plaintiff is greater if their contribution to the accident was slight and the defendant’s contribution was gross. Gross negligence, in this sense, means reckless and having a conscious disregard for the safety of the other individual. Conversely, a plaintiff’s award will be less if their contribution is more than “slight.”

Pure Contributory Negligence

Pure contributory negligence is used in four states and bars a plaintiff from recovering any damages if they contributed at all to the accident. It doesn’t care about percentages or who is more at fault.

Being involved in an accident is troublesome in and of itself, so it’s important that you have an attorney on your side to help you out with the legal side of things. Depending on the state you live in, you may or may not be entitled to damages from the other party. Operating under a misconception of fault won’t end well for you. If you’ve recently been involved in an accident, contact your attorney immediately to help you get through this harrowing situation.