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Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence

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Most personal injury accidents and cases involve negligent actions that can be attributed to at least one at-fault party. Negligence is when an individual or party does not exercise proper care in action or duty, resulting in another party’s harm.

Individuals harmed due to an at-fault party’s negligent acts may be eligible to receive compensation for their injuries after filing a claim or lawsuit.

However, the outcome of a lawsuit depends on identifying the negligent party and determining liability. This process is held to different principles depending on whom negligent acts can be attributed to.

Contributory and comparative negligence are two (2) legal doctrines that define negligence in a personal injury case and may have an impact on the compensation a claimant is eligible to receive. We can help you understand the difference between the two and how negligence is determined in a case.

For questions about personal injury cases, or to file a personal injury lawsuit, you can speak directly with the attorneys of Schwartzapfel Lawyers by visiting us online or calling 1-516-342-2200 today.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence occurs when an individual or party does not uphold responsibilities that may have an impact on others. To better understand negligence, it is important to become familiar with the following concepts:

  • Duty refers to an individual or party’s responsibilities within the context of a situation or environment.
  • Duty of care is an individual or party’s responsibility to protect others within the context of a certain situation or environment.
  • Breach of duty occurs when an individual or party fails to uphold their duties and is considered negligent.
  • Liability or being held liable refers to responsibility for damages caused by negligent actions. A liable party may be sued for compensation to cover damages caused by their negligent actions.

What Is the Difference Between Duty and Duty of Care?

Duty and duty of care can look different depending on context. As a demonstration of these differences, consider the following examples:

  • A construction site supervisor has a legal duty to maintain a safe work environment. Therefore, their duty of care is to keep workers from getting hurt. A breach of their duty can result in harm to a worker.
  • Drivers on the road have a duty to follow traffic laws. This keeps them safe and protects others on the road from harm. For example, breaking a traffic law by driving above the speed limit is considered a breach of duty and can cause a car crash.
  • Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals have a duty to apply their expertise for the benefit and treatment of their patients.A doctor who fails to follow protocol when diagnosing an illness or prescribing medication can be charged with medical negligence if a patient is harmed as a result.

Identifying the negligent party in a personal injury case may seem straightforward from these examples. However, negligence can be hard to identify and can be attributed to more than a single party.

The following sections will discuss the two (2) main principles used to assess negligence in a personal injury case. Depending on how negligence is attributed in a case, the injured party’s eligibility for compensation may change.

At Schwartzapfel Lawyers, we can answer any questions you have about negligence when you give us a call at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online today!

What Is Contributory Negligence?

In some personal injury cases, negligence can be attributed to both the defendant as well as the injured party, or individual.

For example, a construction worker is injured when a metal beam swivels and hits his head. Their supervisor may be held negligent for not securing the metal beam and maintaining safety in the workplace. They may also be held negligent for not wearing a hard hat as instructed by safety protocols.

When the contributory negligence system is applied to personal injury cases, it rules that the injured party may recover no compensation for damages if they are partially at fault for their injury.

Under the contributory negligence rule, the injured party cannot sue another at-fault party for any damages, even if they were found to only be 1% at-fault for an incident due to negligent actions. Contributory negligence is not a standard principle in personal injury cases and is only applied in the following jurisdictions:

  • Alabama
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • The District of Columbia

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Negligence in personal injury cases cannot always be clearly attributed to a single party. Even if an injured party is partially at fault for an incident, they should still be able to receive compensation for damages they incurred.

Under comparative negligence, an injured party may be able to receive compensation for damages depending on the percentage that they were at fault for an incident.

There are two (2) types of comparative negligence: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence.

Pure Comparative Negligence

Pure comparative negligence allows an injured party to sue for compensation for the percentage of damages they were not at fault for.

For example, if an individual or party was 30% at fault for their injuries, they may only sue for 70% of the damages they incurred.

New York is a pure comparative negligence state, along with: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Modified comparative negligence (also called “modified comparative fault”) allows an injured party to sue for compensation depending on their degree of fault for an accident. If both parties are equally at-fault for an accident, they cannot sue each other.

Under modified comparative negligence, an eligible party can sue for the percentage of damages they were not at fault for.

Several nuances to the modified comparative negligence rule differ based on the case and laws in the states where it’s practiced.

For instance, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia use comparative negligence in situations where the plaintiff is deemed at fault for 50% or less of the damages caused.

However, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming use comparative negligence in situations where the plaintiff is found at fault for 51% or less of the damages caused.

The right lawyer can help you determine if partial fault for an injury may impact your lawsuit and compensation package. You can get in touch with the skilled legal professionals at Schwartzapfel Lawyersby calling 1-516-342-2200 today. And while your consultation will be free, you should know that the advice you receive may save you miles of headache, heartache, and financial strain down the road.

How Do You Calculate Damages?

The process of attributing negligence for a personal injury and filing a lawsuit against an at-fault party is incomplete without assessing the damages incurred in an incident.

Calculating damages in a personal injury case can help determine the percentage of fault for an injury or loss. It is also important in computing how much compensation the affected party can sue for, depending on the extent to which they were at fault for an incident.

In certain cases, an injured party may be eligible to receive compensation for costs associated with:

  • Medical expenses for treatments or procedures, medications, hospital stays, visits to health clinics, rehabilitation, and transportation to and from appointments.
  • Property damages that can be attributed to the incident at hand. This can include damages to a car after a traffic accident.
  • Lost wages if the harmed individual could not return to work due to their injuries and therefore did not receive pay while in recovery.
  • Emotional distress caused by a traumatic accident leading to negative emotions that linger after the accident.
  • Pain and suffering as a result of extensive and painful injuries. This covers injuries that may also lead to long-term discomfort or pain.
  • Disability or long-term impairment that interferes with an individual’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks or live a normal life.

Note: The amount of calculated damages in a personal injury case will likely depend on whether the above factors can be applied, as well as the severity of the incident and the damages incurred.

To help you calculate damages, gather evidence, and so much more, the seasoned team at Schwartzapfel Lawyers can help. To get started, simply dial 1-516-342-2200 for your free consultation today.

Calculated Damages and Partial Negligence

If partial negligence can be attributed to the affected party, they may not be eligible to sue for all the calculated damages in a personal injury case.

New York is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that an injured party can file a personal injury lawsuit to sue for calculated damages, but only for the percentage they were not at fault for.

If the calculated damages in a case amount to $1,000, and the injured party was 40% at fault, they’d only be able to sue for $600 in damages.

In a state following the contributory negligence doctrine, the same injured party would not be able to sue for any percentage of calculated damages. They would not be able to receive any compensation for their losses.

The Final Word on Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence

To learn more about what goes into calculating and collecting damages in personal injury cases, or for more details about contributory and comparative negligence laws, you can speak with the skilled personal injury lawyers at Schwartzapfel Lawyers by calling 1-516-342-2200 for a free consultation today.

Our seasoned personal injury attorneys would be honored to fight for you in and out of court. Moreover, our law firm comes equipped with more than 150 years of combined experience helping personal injury claims like yours succeed so that our clients can receive all the money and benefits they are entitled to.

That being said, you shouldn’t wait, as your window to file a claim and recover financially may soon close forever. To keep that from happening, act now by calling Schwartzapfel Lawyers and have our award-winning team fight for you every step of the way!

DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice. You should seek the appropriate counsel your situation requires. For more information, call 1-516-342-2200 now!


Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You™™

Legally Liable Definition | Law School Data

Comparative Negligence – Legal Information Institute | Cornell University

Contributory Negligence – Legal Information Institute | Cornell University

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