Contributory and Comparative Negligence

Unfortunately, accidents are a part of life. They can happen to anyone, anywhere. When they happen, most people seek out the cause of the accident, often wanting to know who or what was to blame. When someone or something is blamed for an accident, they are accused of being at fault. If negligence is a factor, that could greatly influence the outcome of a lawsuit should either party pursue legal action.

Negligence Explained

Negligence can be summarized as, “conduct that creates an unreasonable risk of harm to others.” If an entity creates a situation where negligence has occurred and an accident results, they could be held legally responsible for the consequences.

For an accusation of negligence to be upheld in court, there must be evidence or proof that it actually occurred. These items should be presented to the court as proof of negligence:

  • The injured party suffered real, documented injuries
  • The negligent party knew of the situation that led to the injury and chose not to act
  • The lack of action from the negligent party contributed to the injured party’s injuries
  • The negligent party acted unreasonably
  • The negligent party could be held responsible for the safety of the injured party

If the accident was caused by a form of negligence on either the injured party or the party accused of being at fault and the accident goes to trial or turns into a lawsuit, the type of negligence will need to be determined. There are two types of negligence in this sort of situation: contributory negligence, and comparative negligence.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is when the injured party actually acted in such a way that contributed to their injuries. If the injured party was not acting reasonably, they could be found partially or wholly responsible for the consequences of their actions, even if another party was a factor in the accident.

In the court of law, a contributory negligence claim is filed in response to a negligence lawsuit that has been filed against the accused party. The contributory negligence counterclaim must show that the injured party contributed to at least part of their injuries due to unreasonable actions.

If the contributory negligence counterclaim is upheld, the injured party could lose their right to recover damages, or the amount of damages could be reduced.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is when each party’s negligent contribution to the accident is weighed and taken into account when damages are assigned. Since contributory negligence stripped all rights to recover damages from injured parties, comparative negligence was developed as a way for the injured parties to receive at least some compensation for their injuries.

In the situation of pure comparative negligence, the total damages are reduced according to the injured party’s contribution to the accident. This is typically done by assigning a percentage to the injured party’s contribution and subtracting that percent from the total awarded damages.

In the situation of modified comparative negligence, if the injured party is found to be equally or more responsible than the accused party, no damages will be awarded. In other words, if the injured party is found to be 50 percent responsible or higher, they will not receive any damages for the accident.

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