What is Comparative Fault?


No one ever wants to be in a car accident, especially not a serious one, but inevitably most people are at some point in their lives.

Dealing with a car accident and the lasting effects can be draining, but hiring a car accident lawyer can help you navigate the situation.

A car accident lawyer has an understanding of state laws, which can vary significantly.

In some states, there’s a term to know called comparative fault. New York is an example of a state with comparative fault, and if you hear someone mention this term you might wonder what it means.

The following are things to know about comparative fault and how it impacts claims.


What Is Negligence?

Negligence is a term frequently used in legal situations, including car accidents. The general concept of negligence is that one person acts carelessly and that causes harm or injury to someone else.

There is the assumption that you owe the other person a duty to act prudently.

In a car accident, if there’s an injury there is a need to figure out who’s at fault. You have to prove the other driver in a car accident was negligent, but in places where there are shared fault rules, even if there’s negligence, the other driver may be able to avoid full fault.

This is where concepts like comparative negligence become relevant.


Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence systems distribute fault between the parties that are in an accident. Most states have adopted some iteration of comparative negligence. Under these systems, as a defendant, you can have a partial defense and claim that the plaintiff was also at fault in the accident.

As an example, if someone is making a left turn and they hit another driver, but that driver is speeding, there may be a case of comparative negligence or partial fault. If the driver who was speeding is injured and sues the other driver for negligence if there’s a comparative system in place the driver who turned left may be found 70% at-fault, and the speeding driver may be found 30% at fault.

If there’s a total damage amount of $50,000, then the driver 70% at-fault will receive an amount that’s reduced, based on their degree of fault.


Types of Comparative Negligence

Different states have different types of comparative negligence.

One type, which is what’s in place in New York as well as California and Florida is called pure comparative negligence.

With pure comparative negligence, no matter how negligent you are, as an accident victim, you may be able to recover compensation. This is true even if your degree of fault in the accident is greater than that of the defendant.

Modified comparative negligence limits the recovery a victim can be awarded if the fault of the victim goes over a certain degree.

As an example, there are states in which accident victims can recover damages only if their fault is less than the fault of the defendant. This is the case in Georgia and Colorado.

Then some states mandate the victim of the accident can be no more than 50% at fault to recover any compensation.

There’s also a concept called contributory negligence, and with this, if you’re an accident victim, you can’t receive any compensation if you are proven to have contributed to the accident in any way.


How Is Negligence Established?

When you’re on the roadway in any capacity, even as a pedestrian or passenger, you have to use what’s described as reasonable care to protect yourself and others.

If you’re the victim of an accident, but you don’t reasonably protect yourself or others, you may be found negligent.

Speeding is a common scenario that may mean you’re negligent, as is jaywalking, riding with a driver you know is drunk, or riding in a car that you know to be defective.

Finally, something else to be aware of is that following an accident, if applicable, you may be able to seek two types of compensation which are economic and non-economic.

Economic damages are what compensates you for injuries that have a value or cost, can be placed on, such as medical bills.

Non-economic damages are subjective and, as such, are more challenging to calculate. These damages can include things like emotional distress and pain and suffering.

Negligence, as it pertains to car accidents, is complex, which is why if you’re in an accident the best thing to do is talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

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