Examining the Roles of Contributory and Comparative Negligence in Accident Cases

Personal injury cases rest on the concept of negligence. When you hire a personal injury lawyer, he or she will consider the role of negligence in your case, including whether the negligence rests solely with the other party or if you contributed to the accident in any way. If you can be proven to have a role in causing the accident, your lawyer in Tracy may adjust the kind of compensation he or she pursues on your behalf. These concepts are known as contributory and comparative negligence, depending on the laws in your state. Here is what you need to know.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is a system used in only a handful of states: Maryland, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. Under this system, accident victims who were responsible for any part of an accident can be prevented receiving any compensation at all for their injuries. Even if the role of victims was very small and their injuries are severe, the contributory negligence system means that they may be full responsible for all of their own damages, including long-term financial problems caused on ongoing medical bills or the inability to work. The all-or-nothing nature of contributory negligence is the reason it is only used in a small number of states. Other states have decided that contributory negligence is too extreme and instead rely on comparative negligence.

Comparative Negligence

The comparative negligence system lets defendants in personal injury cases mount a partial defense, in which they argue that the victim has some degree of responsibility for the accident, so they should only be eligible to receive a reduced amount of compensation. Usually, this is expressed as a percentage, and the assigned percentage of responsibility is the percentage of available compensation the victim receives. In some states, including California, there is a pure comparative negligence system, in which victims can receive compensation even if they were more negligent than the defendant. In modified comparative negligence states, accident victims must be less negligent than defendants to receive damages in a personal injury case.

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