What Is the Difference Between Contributory Negligence and Comparative Fault?

Comparative Negligence vs Contributory Negligence

If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may be wondering how you’ll be able to afford to pay your medical bills and support yourself and your loved ones while you’re out of work. If someone else’s reckless or negligent actions were the cause of your injuries, you could file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for the losses you’ve accrued and hardships you’ve suffered.

Unfortunately, liability for accidents is not always immediately apparent. People are not always willing to admit fault and accept liability. In addition, you might be concerned that your actions might have partially contributed to the accident.

Whether you will be able to seek compensation in cases where fault may be unclear will depend on what kind of negligence law your state uses: comparative or contributory.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

With comparative negligence, monetary awards are distributed according to the fault of the parties involved. The negligence of the parties will be compared and each will be assigned a percentage of responsibility for the accident. Your award will then be reduced by the percentage you are found to be at fault. For example, if you would have been awarded $100,000 but were found to be 10 percent at fault, your award would be reduced by 10 percent, and you would receive only $90,000.

There are a few variations of comparative negligence. With pure comparative negligence, you can recover damages regardless of how much fault was assigned to you. Even if you were found to be 90 percent at fault for the accident, you could still theoretically recover 10 percent of the damages. California uses the pure comparative negligence system.

There is also modified comparative negligence, which comes in two main forms. In some states, you can recover compensation only if you were less than 50 percent at fault for the accident, meaning that if the fault is split 50-50, neither party can recover. In other states, you can recover damages as long as you were less than 51 percent at fault, meaning that if the fault was split 50-50, you could still recover compensation. Individual states can have further specifications for this system.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Contributory negligence is an older system, originating from English common law. With this system, a plaintiff is barred from recovering any compensation if they are found to have contributed to the accident in any way. This means that even a plaintiff found to have been only 1 percent responsible for the accident will be unable to recover compensation.

This is considered a very harsh rule, which most states have moved away from. Only Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., still use this system.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Regardless of whether your state uses pure comparative fault, modified comparative fault, or contributory negligence, you should get help from a lawyer to help you pursue a claim. A lawyer will be familiar with your state’s system and will formulate the best legal strategy for your case to maximize your compensation.

No matter which system is in place, it is important to demonstrate that you were as minimally responsible for the accident as possible. A lawyer can help do this by conducting an independent investigation of the accident to gather all the pertinent evidence. They can then negotiate with the insurance companies or pursue your case in court. With their help, you are likely to receive a far greater sum than you would on your own.

If you were recently injured in an accident in Sacramento, you should contact Demas Law Group as soon as possible. Our firm has a 99 percent success rate and has won millions of dollars for our past clients. We are ready to put our experience to work for you. To learn more about your legal rights, schedule a free consultation today by calling us or contacting us online.