Every state has its own laws governing how much compensation a person can claim in a personal injury suit. A major part of any state's laws include how it takes "comparative negligence" into account. Sometimes, a person can sue another party for their injuries even if they're partly at fault. In other cases, they can't.
The evolution of state law has produced two types of comparative negligence: pure and modified. These laws determine the damages a person can claim in a personal injury lawsuit.
Pure Contributory Negligence & Pure Comparative Negligence
Pure contributory negligence is a rule that stipulates that if you are even one percent at fault for your accident, you are disqualified from filing a lawsuit. Personal injury cases can be difficult when pure contributory negligence is involved; the rule makes it easier for insurers and defendants to get your case dismissed. If the defendant can provide the smallest bit of evidence that you were at fault for your accident, then your case is in danger. As a result, pure contributory negligence primarily benefits insurers and defendants.
Today, five U.S. states and districts follow pure contributory negligence:
- The District of Columbia
- North Dakota
Pure comparative negligence is a rule that stipulates that a defendant is only financially liable for damages equal to their percentage of fault. So, if a plaintiff suffered $100,000 in damages, but the defendant was only 85 percent at fault, the defendant would only be liable for $85,000. Plaintiffs in pure comparative negligence states can still file lawsuits when they are partially at fault, but their final award is reduced by their percentage of fault. About a third of U.S. states utilize this rule.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Modified comparative negligence is used by most states to determine the compensation a plaintiff is entitled to. States that follow modified comparative negligence utilize either a 50 percent or 51 percent rule. Pennsylvania follows a 51 percent rule. The rule states that a plaintiff can only seek damages from the defendant if they are less than 51 percent at fault for the accident. The 51 percent rule makes it so that a person can only file a lawsuit if they were the least responsible for an accident.
Notably, adjustments are still made to the final payout of a lawsuit under comparative negligence. So, if a plaintiff is 25 percent liable for an accident, they will only collect 75 percent of damages awarded to them from the case.
If you’ve suffered from injuries caused by the negligence of another person, turn to one of Pennsylvania’s most experienced law firms. We’ve helped clients win tens of millions in settlements and verdicts. Call Handler, Henning & Rosenberg to learn your options at (888) 498-3023 for a free consultation.