To understand Contributory and Comparative Negligence, one must understand negligence in general. Negligence is a term that is used to refer to conduct that creates an unreasonable risk of harm to others, and when a standard of care is not met. If you are being negligent and said negligence causes another person to become injured, then you are legally responsible for paying damages. The following things need to be proven to prevail in a negligence claim: You must prove that the defendant owed a duty toward the plaintiff, that the defendant failed to act in a reasonable way, that the defendant’s breach was the actual cause of another’s injuries, that the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of the injuries, and that the plaintiff suffered actual injuries that can be cause for damages.
When it comes to negligence, there are generally two kinds: Contributory and Comparative. You can find out about the two below, and what makes them different from one another.
Comparative negligence, in a nutshell, is an approach wherein each party’s negligence involved in an accident is weighed when determining damages in a case. When it comes to different states, there are different comparative rules. Some states will have their own rules, but many have adopted some of the two rules mentioned here:
- Pure comparative negligence: Accident victims are able to recover some compensation for their injuries even if they were quite negligent in their own case, or if the degree of fault is higher than the defendant’s degree of fault.
- Modified comparative negligence: An accident victim’s recovery is limited if the victim’s fault exceeds a certain degree. In some states, a victim will only be able to recover damages if his or her fault is less than that of the defendant. This is called the “equal to or greater than” rule.
Very few states still use the contributory negligence system. An example of some of these states includes Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. If you are being sued for an accident and live in one of these states, you could possible avoid liability entirely if you can show that the accident victim’s own negligence contributed to the car accident. This system essentially bars an accident victim from recovering any compensation if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff acted negligently and contributed to the accident in any way. It can lead to harsh results since it denies compensation to accident victims even if their degree of fault is slight. This is why many states don’t follow the contributory system to this day.
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If you were in an accident and wish to establish contributory or comparative negligence, then it is necessary for the defendant to prove that the plaintiff, through the plaintiff’s own negligence, contributed to the accident to some degree. Plaintiff conduct that may be considered negligent could include speeding while driving another car involved in the accident, making sudden or unexpected movements as a pedestrian, rising with a driver that the plaintiff knows is drunk, or interfering with the driver’s operation of their vehicle.
Determination of fault in an accident can be complicated and you may feel like the rules are very complex ones. This is why it is a smart idea to have an attorney on your side that can answer any questions you may have. They may be able to get you the compensation you deserve. Call MDL today for a free consultation!