What Is Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania Personal Injury Claims?

In a majority of Pennsylvania personal injury cases, proving negligence is the key to a successful claim. Negligence is the element of a personal injury lawsuit that determines if the defendant's actions were atypical for the given scenario. For example, in a car accident claim, the plaintiff must prove the defendant was negligent in the use of their vehicle. Suppose the defendant side-swiped the plaintiff while traveling 50 mph in a 30 mph zone. The plaintiff would show the judge that the defendant’s inability to follow the speed limit was a negligent action. While the court may determine that the plaintiff’s actions were negligent, comparative negligence will determine if the plaintiff is clear of fault.

Comparative Negligence in Personal Injury Claims

The idea behind comparative negligence is that both parties, the plaintiff and the defendant, may have acted carelessly in the incident that injured the plaintiff. While a court can declare that a defendant’s actions were negligent, a court can simultaneously assert that the plaintiff’s choices were also careless.

In the example mentioned above, imagine that the sideswiped plaintiff had pulled out in front of the speeding defendant. In this scenario, it is possible that the court will see the defendant’s act of speeding as less negligent than the plaintiff’s action of pulling out in front of a car. In a situation where both parties are proven to have acted irresponsibly, the court will then use comparative negligence to determine the percentage for which each party is at fault.

The result of the comparison will determine whose actions were more responsible for the action and subsequent injury. When a court applies comparative negligence, there are two primary outcomes. First, if the plaintiff is found to be at least 50% responsible for the accident that resulted in their injury, then the personal injury case is thrown out. If the defendant is found to be at least 51% responsible for an accident, then negligence is thoroughly established, and the case can move forward to resolution.

How Comparative Negligence Affects Outcomes

Although comparative negligence may establish that the defendant is more responsible than the plaintiff in causing the accident, any amount of proven plaintiff negligence can count against them in regards to financial recovery. If the plaintiff is found to be 40% responsible for an accident that resulted in their injury, the judge may reduce the damages that the plaintiff can recover. Therefore, a plaintiff wants to prove as little negligence as possible to receive maximum damages.

Prepare for Accusations of Negligence

No matter the circumstances of your personal injury claim, the insurance company will try to show the court that you were negligent.

You need to protect yourself.

Hiring a skilled personal injury law firm can make the difference. Handler Henning & Rosenberg has served Pennsylvania citizens for nearly 100 years. If you want trusted legal counsel that fights for your rights, you want our help!

Call (888) 498-3023 for a free evaluation of your personal injury claim.


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