What is Comparative or Contributory Negligence?

When you are involved in an accident, fault is one of the first things that you may consider. Fault is simple to understand: Who was responsible for the accident? Whose negligence played the biggest role? In the end, the person who was at-fault is also the one who must pay the damages caused by their negligence. When determining fault, you may run into two concepts known as contributory and comparative negligence.

Understanding Comparative and Contributory Negligence 

In legal terms, pure contributory negligence comes into play when two people were involved in an accident and the injured party was at-fault. In these cases, the at-fault party would not be able to recover anything for their injuries. Only a handful of states like Alabama, Maryland, and Virginia follow these rules to this day. Most states will instead use something known as comparative negligence, which allows an injured party to recover some damages for their injuries, even if they were at-fault. There are several different types, however.

Pure Comparative Fault: In these cases, if an injured person is partially at fault for their injuries, their damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault. Many states use this method, including Alaska, Kentucky, and New York.

Proportional Comparative Fault at 51%: In these cases, you cannot file a liability claim or lawsuit against the other party if you were more than 51% at fault. New Jersey uses this system.

Proportional Comparative Fault at 50%: Under these circumstances, an injured person that is less than 50% at fault for the accident is entitled to compensation. This means that, if both people involved in the accident were equally involved, neither one will be entitled to damages. Many states like Kansas and Maine use this system.

Under these systems, it is up to the insurance company claims adjusters to assign degrees of fault by taking a look at the details of your accident. There are no specific formulas that will help determine percentages of fault. You and your attorney will be able to discuss fault percentages and how to advocate for the lowest amount of fault based on your circumstances. Call us today for more information on how we can help you with this process.