Car Accident: How Contributory Negligence Impacts Your Case?

Contributory negligence can be defined as one of those legal terms that tends to make a non-lawyer’s eyes glaze over. Contributory negligence is a legal concept that has an enormous impact on personal injury cases. So, you need to understand what it means if you’ve been injured.

In order to understand what contributory negligence means, you need to start out by defining the term “negligence”. It is an important concept in the world of personal injury law. The outcome of every personal injury lawsuit focuses on the idea of negligence and whether someone acted in a negligent manner.

As per the law, negligence is a failure to behave with the level of care that an ordinary, reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances.

Everyone has their own reasons and motivations for their actions.

Contributory Negligence Vs Comparative Negligence

From the legal standpoint, negligence means the “contributory” part. Once the court determines who is at fault for an accident or injury in a personal injury lawsuit, it has a couple of options as to how to proceed.

  • Comparative fault

In this case, the plaintiff can receive compensation from a lawsuit based on what percent the defendant was at fault. In other words, if the defendant was 50 percent responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, then the plaintiff can recover up to 50 percent of the total damages.

Comparative negligence usually compares the amount of fault that should be attributed to each party for causing the accident or injury. The judge or jury listens to evidence regarding the car accident to determine the amount of fault that should be attributed to each party. This system included two different schemes that include:

  • Pure Comparative Fault

Under this system, each party to the accident was able to recover damages that were equal to the amount of fault of the other party. This implies that a driver can sue another driver even if he or she was more at fault than the second driver. His damages are reduced by the amount at fault he or she was in the accident.

  • Modified Comparative Fault

In this system, the injured party can gather all of the damages from the other parties at fault so long as his or her own negligence was less than 50 percent of the cause of the accident. If his or her negligence is greater than this amount, he or she cannot recover any damages.

  • Contributory Negligence

Here, the plaintiff can’t recover anything if they were even slightly at fault for their injuries. Even when the accident was 99 percent of the defendant’s fault and only 1 percent of the plaintiff’s fault, the plaintiff has no right to compensation.

Thus, the concept of contributory negligence holds that if a person’s own negligence contributed to an accident, he cannot hold another person responsible for the accident. In states that follow this rule, even if the person was only one percent at fault for the accident, he or she loses the right to recover. Because of the harshness of this rule, many do not follow it.

How to work with contributory negligence?

When you suffered your injuries, you’re stuck working under the contributory negligence rule. It’s up to you to show that the defendant was entirely at fault for your injuries if you want to receive compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

The smartest thing you can do to improve your chances of a successful financial recovery is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who can give you candid advice and fight on your behalf in court. Because the other party’s insurance company knows they only need to show that you were 1 percent at fault for the accident to win the case, you can bet they’ll try to do so from the very beginning.

There are some ways you can overcome a contributory negligence defense in court. Suppose the defendant’s willful acts caused your injuries, then the defendant can’t claim contributory negligence. Also, if you can show that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid an accident and failed to do so, then the defendant can still be held accountable, even under contributory negligence.

In usual, a qualified personal injury attorney should be able to give you an honest assessment of your odds of winning your case. It is better to figure this out before you ever set foot in a courtroom rather than after you’ve sunk countless hours into preparing legal paperwork, gathering evidence, and figuring out how to represent yourself at trial.

After an accident, one of the key determinations is who is at fault for the accident. This usually comes down to determining whether a party was negligent. Negligence is usually defined as acting in a careless manner in a manner that causes the other person to suffer damages. If the case goes to court, the jury determines which party was at fault for the accident. The accident victim who is seeking to recover damages has the burden of showing the other party was at fault.

How to establish negligence?

Both contributory negligence and comparative negligence serve as absolute or partial defenses to the claim. Every driver has the duty to exercise reasonable care in order to protect the safety of others, as well as his or her own. If a victim breaches this duty, the victim may be found to have been negligent. Some of the very common examples of negligence are interfering with the driver’s driving, riding with a driver who is in a dangerous state such as drunk or tired, speeding or riding in a defective vehicle that was known to be so from the beginning.

  • Pure approach

When the judge finds that you were less than 51 percent responsible for the accident, the total agreed-upon damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault in which you were responsible.

  • Modified approach

The modified comparative negligence approach allows you to be up to 51 percent liable and still receive damages. In case you're found to be more than 51 percent responsible, you’re not entitled to recover any damages.


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