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Personal Injury Law 101: Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence

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Accidents occur every day, and people or property is destroyed as a result of these accidents. When accidents occur, the first thing people do is establish which party is at fault. The concepts of comparative and contributory negligence are often used to address this question. This article will examine these two concepts and determine how they are applied in a personal injury case.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a legal principle designed to allocate fault when more than one party is responsible for an accident or injury. It seeks to determine the extent to which each party is liable for the damages incurred. In states that follow the doctrine of comparative negligence, the court assesses the actions of all parties involved and assigns a percentage of fault to each one. This percentage represents the degree to which each party’s negligence contributed to the accident or injury. In such cases, it is imperative to hire the service of a licensed personal injury lawyer to determine the fairness of compensation.

There are two primary forms of comparative negligence – pure and modified comparative negligence. In pure comparative negligence, the damages possibly recovered by a plaintiff are reduced by a ratio or percentage of their fault. In modified comparative negligence, the damages recovered by a plaintiff are reduced by a ratio or percentage of their fault. However, damages may be completely barred if the plaintiff is found to be 50% or 51% at fault.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is a much stricter legal doctrine. Under contributory negligence, if the injured party is found to be even the slightest bit at fault for their injuries, they are entirely barred from recovering any compensation from the other party, regardless of the other party’s degree of negligence.

In states that adhere to the contributory negligence doctrine, the injured party’s role in the accident is closely scrutinized. If they are found to have contributed in any way, even minimally, to the accident or injury, they are denied any compensation. This can often lead to harsh outcomes, where injured individuals are left with no recourse for their losses.

What are their Key Differences?

The key differences between comparative and contributory negligence are in their standard of recovery and fairness. On the standard of recovery, comparative negligence allows for a more equitable distribution of damages by assigning percentages of fault and reducing compensation accordingly. In contrast, contributory negligence is unforgiving and denies any recovery if the injured party is found even slightly at fault.

On fairness, comparative negligence is considered fairer as it takes into account each party’s level of responsibility for the accident. Contributory negligence, on the other hand, is often criticized for its harshness, as even a minor fault on the part of the injured party can lead to no compensation.

Final Word

If someone has sued you for negligence but there are chances they are partially at fault, you can easily file a counterclaim for comparative or contributory negligence. The most important thing is to ensure you have a licensed and experienced personal injury lawyer with you to provide you with a thorough assessment for a personal injury claim or insurance claim.

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