Comparative Negligence

Of the many personal injury cases that are heard in American courts each year, the majority involves what is known as comparative negligence. Comparative negligence takes into account any role that the plaintiff may have had in his or her own injuries. If both the plaintiff and the defendant were at least partially negligent in the actions that lead to the injury or loss, the court may consider ruling based on comparative negligence. There are two sub categories of comparative negligence: pure comparative and modified comparative. Interestingly, both forms of comparative negligence use formulas to calculate the fault of the plaintiff and any subsequent damages that may be rewarded in the case.

Pure Comparative Negligence

The doctrine of pure comparative negligence states that the plaintiff cannot be more responsible than the defendant for his or her injuries. Using a series of formulas, if the plaintiff is found to be responsible for 50% or more of the injury or loss, the court will not rule in his or her favor. Pure comparative negligence also dictates that the plaintiff may not be as responsible than the defendant, requiring a responsibility rating of 49% or less for the plaintiff to be eligible to receive a favorable ruling.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Modified comparative negligence takes into account the amount of responsibility the plaintiff had in the injury or loss and deducts that percentage from the financial settlement. As with pure comparative negligence, the court uses a series of complicated formulas to determine the amount of responsibility to be attributed to the plaintiff. Once this number is determined, the settlement amount will be decreased by the percentage. For example, if the court rules that the plaintiff was 30% responsible for the injuries, then a ruling of $100,000 for the plaintiff would be reduced by 30% to $70,000.

Although comparative negligence is a common factor in personal injury cases, the formulas the court uses to determine fault can be very confusing. If you are involved in a personal injury case where comparative negligence is at play, it is important that you contact a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible to help determine the next steps in your case.