Comparative Negligence and Motor Vehicle Accidents

When a person is involved in a traffic accident, determining fault is often difficult. Of course, there are some instances where blame is obvious. For instance, if a driver turns left in front of oncoming traffic, and a speeding driver hits the first car, both parties share the blame.

Some states share blame and damages through the theory of comparative negligence. According to the theory, damages are reduced by the party’s assigned portion of fault. Suppose the driver mentioned above claims damages of $10,000, but the jury finds that they were 30% responsible while the other driver was 70% responsible. The first driver would only receive $7000, or 70% of the damages.

The above example is true in states that use the pure comparative negligence theory after motor vehicle accidents. Other states have different principles, allowing legal action only if the plaintiff shared less than 50% of the fault. Comparative negligence laws fall into one of these types:

1. Pure contributory: In a state that recognizes the pure form of contributory negligence, injured parties may not be able to collect an award if they are even 1% responsible.

2. Pure comparative: States under the pure comparative rule of liability allow parties to win damages even if they are 99% responsible. If an intoxicated driver is mostly to blame, but makes a claim because the other driver’s brake lights weren’t working, they may collect minimal damages.

3. Modified comparative: Most states follow this model, which has two categories: the 50% bar rule and the 51% bar rule. In a state following the first rule, anyone 50% or more responsible cannot recover damages. In states with the latter rule, parties cannot recover if they’re 51% responsible for an accident.

It is normal for the legal system’s complexity to seem overwhelming, especially where negligence law is concerned. If a person shares responsibility for a motor vehicle accident in Leominster MA, or if they’re defending against a lawsuit, they should speak to an accident lawyer with NJC Law, P.C. today

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