Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases
In an automobile accident, comparative negligence looks at the conduct between the plaintiff and the defendant. It is raised as a defense to reduce the plaintiff’s recovery. Comparative negligence varies from state to state.
Under this defense, a plaintiff who is partly responsible for the accident, will only be able to recover part of their damages. As an example, in some states, if the plaintiff were 20% responsible and the defendant 80%, the plaintiff would only be able to recover 80% of her damages. This doctrine applies in most states with a few applying contributory negligence.
Contributory negligence bars a plaintiff from recovery if she were in any way negligent in the accident. Percentages of conduct do not apply. If the plaintiff is 1% at fault, she can not recover for her damages.
In pure comparative states, a plaintiff can recover even if the defendant had a very small amount of negligence in causing the accident. If the defendant were just 1% negligent and the plaintiff were 99%, she could still recover 1% of her damages.
In modified comparative fault states, a plaintiff can only recover if her percentage of fault is below a certain percentage. Some states use the 50% bar rule which lets the plaintiff recover damages as long as her fault is 49% or less. Other states adhere to the 51% bar rule which requires the plaintiff’s fault be 50% or less.
As you can see the comparative negligence doctrine varies from state to state and is quite complex. If you are in an accident and facing a comparative negligence situation, always contact an experienced personal attorney to discuss this and other important legal issues that can affect your case.
Dennis P. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Georgia
Christopher A. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Michigan