Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence: What’s the Law in Your State?

Hilton and Somer_Contributory Vs Comparative Negligence-Whats The Law In Your State_Blog

In a personal injury case, one of the most important questions is “Who is at fault?” Determining who was negligent in an accident allows the court to decide who is responsible for damages. Each state has its own laws for determine whether or not a plaintiff can collect damages from another party in a personal injury case.

If you’re considering a personal injury case to recover damages, you should understand the concepts of contributory and comparative negligence.

Understanding Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is a concept that prevents a plaintiff from collecting damages from the defendant if the plaintiff is partially responsible for the accident. Contributory negligence was the norm across the country for many years. Some states that still observe contributory negligence laws follow standards of pure contributory negligence, while others have modified contributory negligence laws.

In a pure contributory negligence state, a plaintiff is unable to collect damages if they are even 1% at fault for an accident. In a modified contributory negligence state, plaintiffs cannot collect damages if their percentage of fault is above a state-specific standard.

Offsetting Damages with Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is the standard in almost every state, since contributory negligence is now widely considered to be too harsh. In a pure comparative negligence state, a plaintiff’s damages are offset against their own percentage of fault. For example, if the damages of an accident are $10,000 and the plaintiff is 25% at fault, they can recover $7,500 from the other party. In some jurisdictions, modified comparative negligence is the standard. Depending on the state, a plaintiff may be unable to collect if they have the same amount of fault as the defendant or if they are more than 50% responsible for the accident.

Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. Law

Very few states still use contributory negligence. Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. all follow contributory negligence law. If a jury finds that a plaintiff bears fault for an accident, the plaintiff cannot recover any damages from the defendant. For example, consider a car accident where a driver fails to yield and turns left in front of an oncoming car. If the jury finds that the driver going straight was speeding and was 5% at fault for the accident, the driver is unable to seek compensation from the driver that failed to yield.

How This Influences Your Personal Injury Case

Since negligence law in this area is so different from the standard in other parts of the country, it’s essential to meet with a personal injury attorney well-versed in contributory negligence law. An attorney in this jurisdiction can determine if a jury is likely to find you partially responsible for your accident and give you realistic advice regarding your personal injury case.

Turn to Hilton & Somer for Help with Your Personal Injury Case

If you are trying to decide whether or not a personal injury case could help you recover damages from an accident, let the experts at Hilton & Somer take a look at your case. Call our Fairfax office at (703) 782-8349 to set up a consultation.

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