What is Comparative Negligence and How Does it Differ from Contributory Negligence?

The victim of an accident has multiple things to worry about. At the top of the list is receiving treatment for their injuries. The issues don’t end there. The victim has to deal with the emotional trauma of the accident. Then there are the financial constraints. The possibility of missing work piles on the financial suffering of the victim.

There is a way out of all this. Victims can approach a personal injury attorney to recover expenses for the injuries they have suffered and the property damages they have incurred. But there are many elements involved when it comes to winning your personal injury claim.

One of the important aspects of a personal injury claim is liability. The victim must produce evidence that the defendant’s negligence or malicious thoughts were the reason for the accident. Police reports and witness statements may help achieve this. But problems arise when defendants fight back.

Comparative negligence is one such defense. This article discusses what comparative negligence is and how it differs from contributory negligence.

What is Comparative Negligence?

In a personal injury case, the victim (the plaintiff) has to prove that the defendant breached the duty of care they owed to the plaintiff and that it caused injuries.

The defendants may counter the plaintiff’s allegations by stating that the plaintiff had a role to play in the accident. This is called comparative negligence. When this applies, there are chances that the compensation amount may be reduced or, in some cases, you may not receive any compensation at all.

The Doctrine of Comparative Negligence

The rules of comparative negligence vary by state. Although this doctrine applies to most of the states, places like Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, and North Carolina are exceptions.

When comparative negligence is applied, the overall compensation amount takes a hit. The total amount will be adjusted based on the plaintiff’s level of involvement in the accident.

There are 2 approaches to the doctrine of comparative negligence. They are,

  1. Pure Comparative Negligence: A specific percentage will be reduced from the compensation amount meant for the plaintiff. The percentage reduced is based on the plaintiff’s contribution to the accident. 13 out of 50 states follow the pure comparative negligence doctrine.
  2. Modified Comparative Negligence: This doctrine applies only if the plaintiff was equally or more responsible for the accident that caused their injuries. In other words, if the plaintiff was responsible for 50% or more of the accident, they cannot seek compensation.

What’s the Difference?

Contributory negligence was the go-to choice in many states. This changed because contributory negligence is often considered unfair.

In contributory negligence, the plaintiff will be denied compensation if they had a role to play in the accident. The size of the role can be as big as 60% or as small as 1%.

The major difference between the two is that comparative negligence allows the plaintiff to receive compensation if they were responsible for the accident. The plaintiff will receive reduced compensation based on how much they contributed to the accident.

On the contrary, comparative negligence outright denies compensation to the plaintiff. Even if the role they played in the accident was a small one.

Accidents can be tricky to prove. Not only do you have to cope with the injury, but you also have to take measures to seek compensation. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney eliminates the stress of trying to find evidence, handling insurance adjusters, proving liability, and so on.