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What to know about comparative fault

| Jun 3, 2021 | Personal Injury |

To get awarded a settlement in a vehicle accident, the injured party must prove fault. In some cases, fault is obvious, but in other cases, it is hard to determine. Multiple parties in an auto accident in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, could be responsible. In this case, comparative negligence applies to determine whether someone partially responsible for the accident can still collect damages.

The doctrine of comparative negligence

The doctrine of comparative negligence under personal injury law assigns partial blame to multiple drivers. This concept restricts the amount of compensation each driver can recover and prevents insurers from paying out more than necessary.

For example, Driver A seeks $40,000 in damages from Driver B, and Driver B seeks $20,000. The court assigns Driver A 30% fault, so they collect $28,000 from Driver B. Driver B would get 70% of the damages they seek from Driver A, or $6,000. Comparative negligence differs from contributory negligence, which prohibits a driver from collecting damages regardless of fault percentage.

Types of comparative fault

While most states follow comparative negligence for personal injury cases, courts may use one of three types. Under pure comparative negligence, drivers can collect even if they are 1% at fault.

Most states use modified comparative negligence more often than other types, which prohibits drivers from collecting when they reach a certain percentage. Some states apply the 51% rule, which means drivers can’t collect damages when their fault reaches 51% or more.

Other states allow drivers to collect damages at 50% fault or less using the 51% rule. South Dakota is the only state with the slight/gross rule, which allows drivers to collect more if assigned a slighter fault.

Injured drivers may sue responsible parties for their lost wages and medical treatment costs. Some cases settle out of court, but insurers may try to deny legitimate claims, so plaintiffs need a good legal team.