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Personal Injury Law Is More Complex Than You Think

I always assumed that personal injury cases where pretty straight forward. After being in an accident, any financial losses that you suffered would be reimbursed by the liable party's insurance company. Unfortunately, things only work this way in a perfect world. In the real world, personal injury cases are extremely complex and getting the insurance company to pay a fair settlement requires the expertise of an experienced injury lawyer. Unfortunately, it took me several months to finally seek out the legal assistance I needed. As a result, I waited much longer than necessary to get the compensation I so desperately needed. During this time, I learned more about personal injury law than I ever thought I would. It is my hope that this blog will allow me to share that knowledge with you so that you can avoid making some of the same mistakes that I did.

Personal Injury Law Is More Complex Than You Think

Understanding The Difference Between Contributory And Comparative Negligence

by Christine Wagner

In the aftermath of an auto accident, one of the key questions that'll be asked by both sides is who's at fault for the accident. Knowing who's liable and how much liability they'll share for the accident could easily influence your ability to receive compensation for your injuries and other damages. The following offers a brief comparison between contributory and comparative negligence and how it affects liability.

Contributory Negligence

The concept behind contributory negligence is simple -- if you get into accident and you're found at fault due to your own negligence, you won't be able to recover any damages even if the amount of fault is relatively small. For example, if you're changing lanes and you're rear-ended by a speeder, you could lose the ability to recover damages if the insurance adjuster finds you as little as one percent at fault for the accident.

Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia are the only places that employ contributory negligence. Due to the relative harshness of the contributory negligence standard, most states rely on comparative negligence instead.

Comparative Negligence

In contrast to contributory negligence, comparative negligence allows you to recover damages following an accident, even if you share some degree of fault. Using the previous example, you may still be able to recover damages if you're found at fault, depending on the type of comparative negligence standard used:

  • Pure comparative negligence – This system allows the injured party to receive damages from the other party even if the injured party was more at fault. However, their damages are reduced according to their amount of fault. For instance, a driver that's found 70 percent at fault for causing an accident must pay 70 percent of the other driver's damages while receiving only 30 percent of his or her own damages from the other driver.
  • Modified comparative negligence – Think of this as a somewhat gentler form of contributory negligence. Instead of making it nearly impossible to recover damages if you're found at fault at any percentage, you can still collect damages as long as your own negligence contributed to less than 50 percent of the accident cause.

Several states follow what's known as the "51 Percent Bar Rule" when it comes to modified comparative fault. Under this rule, you can still recover damages if you're found at fault for the accident as long as said fault remains at 50 percent or less. If you're found at or over 51 percent at fault, you won't be entitled to any damages.  

For more information or how negligence works in your personal injury case, contact a professional lawyer, such as those at Gartner Law Firm.