Home Law How Contributory and Comparative Negligence Affect a Car Accident Case

How Contributory and Comparative Negligence Affect a Car Accident Case



Have you ever been in a car accident? If yes, then you will know how serious the aftermath of a car accident can be.

Car accidents are never pleasant events. It causes many types of losses to the victim. The following are some of the losses a car accident victim will sustain:

  • Medical bills
  • Property repair costs
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental distress
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of quality of life

See how many losses a person will incur as a result of a car accident. These losses can make a person’s life a living hell. On a positive note, there is a way to make it better. Victims can obtain compensation for their losses by filing a claim with the help of car accident lawyers.

Car accident lawyers can do the following for victims:

  • Investigate the accident
  • Gather evidence
  • Determine liability
  • Calculate your losses
  • Negotiate with the insurance company
  • Take your case to court if needed

Types of Negligence and Their Effect on Compensation

Many factors can affect the outcome of a case. One of the things that can affect the case is the type of negligence. Let’s talk about the two common types of negligence:

  • Contributory negligence
  • Comparative negligence

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence seizes a victim’s ability to claim compensation if they are even slightly responsible for the accident.

Yes, even if the victim is 1% responsible for the accident, they cannot claim compensation. 

Example: Let’s talk about a scenario to get a better understanding of contributory negligence. 

An intoxicated person is driving a car well above the speed limit. This drunk person hits a woman who is jaywalking. Now, the drunk person is definitely at fault. However, since the woman was jaywalking, she cannot file a claim and recover her losses. Defensive driving techniques like maintaining a safe following distance and anticipating stops can go a long way in avoiding a rear end collision.

Kind of unfair, but hey, rules are rules. On the bright side, only five states in the US follow this rule:

  • Alabama
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Washington DC

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is an alternative to the contributory negligence rule. US states follow two types of comparative negligence rules:

  1. Pure comparative negligence
  2. Modified comparative negligence

Pure Comparative Negligence

According to this rule, the claimant can recover compensation even if they are mostly at fault for the accident. However, the percentage of their responsibility will be deducted from their settlement.

Example: Of course, we can’t move on without a scenario. Let’s say Oscar, who was using his phone while driving the car, was t-boned by Cathy, who was running a red light. Oscar files a claim. It was proven that Oscar was 20% responsible for the accident.

So 20% will be deducted from his total settlement. So, let’s say Oscar got $100,000 as his settlement. 20% of it, that is $20,000, will be deducted from the $100,000.

Modified Comparative Negligence

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Some states follow the modified comparative negligence model, as the pure one is kind of unfair to the at-fault party. According to this rule, the claimant cannot obtain compensation if they are more than 50% responsible for the accident.

The same deduction rule of pure comparative negligence applies here too.

Example: Let’s take the Oscar and Cathy case. Now, new findings suggest that Oscar was drunk. So he is found to be more than 50% responsible for the accident. Now, Oscar cannot file a claim against Cathy.

Final Thoughts

These rules can be confusing. However, these are not the only confusing parts of a car accident case. This is why the help of a lawyer is important. An experienced car accident lawyer can help the victims understand the complex terms and guide them through the claim process. Hiring a lawyer is the best way to obtain fair compensation.


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