Written on Aug 3, 2023 6:00:00 AM
Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence: The Difference
In the realm of personal injury law, the concepts of contributory negligence and comparative negligence frequently come into play when determining liability and damages. These two legal doctrines have distinct differences and unique applications, making their understanding crucial for both legal professionals and individuals involved in personal injury cases. When dealing with auto accidents or motorcycle accidents, you may hear contributory negligence and comparative negligence come up.
The contributory negligence rule, a particularly stringent rule in some jurisdictions, can completely bar a plaintiff from recovery if they are found to have contributed in any way to their injury. This article aims to delve into the intricacies of contributory negligence and comparative negligence, shedding light on their implications in personal injury law.
What is Negligence?
Negligence, in legal terms, refers to a failure to exercise the care toward others that a reasonable or prudent person would use in the same circumstances, or taking action that such a reasonable person would not, leading to harm or damage to another person.
Negligence is a fundamental concept in tort law and forms the basis of many personal injury lawsuits. A plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's negligence was the proximate cause of their injury to successfully claim damages.
Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence
Pure Contributory Negligence
The contributory negligence law is a legal principle that states that if the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit was partially at fault for their injury, they will not be able to recover any damages from the defendant.
The concept of contributory negligence bars plaintiffs who are even slightly responsible for their own injuries or harm from recovering compensation from the defendants who may have had more significant responsibility.
For example, if a plaintiff was injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another party, and were found to be partially responsible because they did not use their seat belt or neglected to observe traffic signs, they would not be able to recover any damages from the defendant in a contributory negligence state.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Pure comparative negligence, on the other hand, allows a plaintiff to recover damages even if they were partially at fault for the injury.
In fact, under the comparative negligence rule, a plaintiff can recover damages even if they were 99% at fault for their injury. The catch is that the amount of damages they recover will be reduced by their percentage of fault of the plaintiff's negligence.
Using the earlier car accident example: even if the plaintiff was found to be 30% at fault because they did not use their seat belt or neglected to observe traffic signs, they can still recover damages under pure comparative negligence. However, their recovery would be reduced by 30%, reflecting their degree of fault. So, if the total damages were $10,000, the plaintiff could recover $7,000.
Mixed Contributory and Comparative Negligence
Modified Comparative Negligence with 50% rule
The modified comparative negligence with 50% rule is a middle ground between pure contributory negligence and pure comparative negligence.
Under this rule, if the plaintiff was found to be more than 50% at fault for their injury, they will not be able to recover any damages from the defendant.
However, if they are found to be less than or equal to 50% at fault, they can still recover damages, albeit reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
This means that if the plaintiff was, for example, 40% at fault due to their failure to use a seat belt or observe traffic signs, they could still recover up to $6,000 (60% of the total damages) from the defendant.
Modified Comparative Negligence with 51% rule
The modified comparative negligence with 51% rule is similar to the 50% rule, except that liability will be completely barred if the plaintiff is found to be more than 51% at fault for their injury.
For example, if the plaintiff was 52% responsible because they did not use their seat belt and neglected to observe traffic signs, even partial recovery would not be possible under this rule.
Torts Negligence Per Se
Torts negligence per se refers to a simplified form of establishing negligence in which the plaintiff must show that the defendant violated an existing law and, as a result, caused injury to someone else.
This doctrine shifts the burden from proving duty of care and breach of that duty onto demonstrating whether or not a specific statute (or regulation) was violated by the defendant.
Proving Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Claims
In a personal injury claim where contributory negligence is an issue, the plaintiff will be required to provide evidence that they did not contribute at all to their own damages. Proving contributory negligence can be difficult, as courts tend to err on the side of caution when determining fault and can easily find a plaintiff partially responsible if there is any evidence of their role in the accident or incident.
Contact an Experienced Hernando County Accident Attorney Today
Understanding the complexities of contributory negligence and comparative negligence can be challenging for anyone navigating the aftermath of a car accident in Hernando County. At Lowman Law Firm, we have the expertise and experience to guide you through your personal injury claim.
Take advantage of our free consultation. Our seasoned accident attorneys will provide clarity on your case, help you understand your rights, and strategize for the best possible outcome. Don't negotiate this tough terrain alone — reach out to Lowman Law Firm today.