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Comparative vs Contributory Negligence : Who Is At Fault During An Accident ?

Posted by on Jun 15, 2016

During car accidents, it is the job of a judge to determine who is at fault in case of injuries or deaths. It is but fair to make someone liable for accidents in order to determine who will shoulder the cost. Determining liability can be easy if only one person is to be blamed. But if there is more than driver who caused the accident, everything will depend on the state where the crash happened.

When it comes to determining fault in a car accident, negligence can either be comparative or contributory. 13 states are adopting the comparative negligence rule. Under this system, the plaintiff may still be able to collect damages even if they were partially to blame for the accident. Depending on the action that contributed to the accident, the cost of damages that the plaintiff may be able to collect will be greatly reduced. The level of fault will be compared and the amount of damage will be based on their contribution to the fault.

Comparative negligence can be further divided into modified comparative negligence – 51% rule and modified comparative negligence – 50% rule. There are 33 states that follow the modified comparative negligence rule and from that number, 21 states adopt the modified comparative negligence – 51% rule.Under this system, the plaintiff can only collect damages if their level of fault is not more than 51%. On the other hand, the 12 remaining states adopting comparative negligence adopt the modified comparative negligence – 50% rule. This means that if the plaintiff is responsible for half of the fault, they will not be entitled to receive damages from the accident.

In contributory negligence, if the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident, they would not be entitled to receive any damages from the accident. Suppose the Car A collided with Car B and the crash resulted to the injury of the driver of Car A who partially caused the accident, Car A’s driver will not receive any damages since he had a contribution to the accident. Only four states and District of Columbia adopt the pure contributory negligence rule.

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