Comparative Negligence

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a legal principle that determines the degree of fault or responsibility of each party involved in a civil lawsuit or personal injury claim. It is applied when more than one party is found to be at fault for the damages or injuries that occurred.

Under the concept of comparative negligence, the damages awarded to the injured party are reduced in proportion to his own degree of fault, unlike contributory negligence where the injured party is completely bared from recovery. This means that if a person is partially responsible for his own injuries or damages, his compensation will be reduced by his percentage of fault. There are two main types of comparative negligence:

Pure comparative negligence: In jurisdictions that follow the pure comparative negligence rule, such as Alaska, Arizona, California, New York, and Florida in the United States, the injured party can recover damages even if his is primarily at fault. However, the amount of compensation he will receive is reduced by his percentage of fault. For example, if a court determines that the injured party is 30% at fault and the damages awarded are $100,000, he would receive $70,000 (70% of the total damages).

Modified comparative negligence: A majority of US jurisdictions, such as Montana, Oregon, and Nevada, follow a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, an injured party can only recover damages if his degree of fault is below a certain threshold. This threshold is often set at 50% or 51%. If the injured party is found to be equally or more at fault than the other party, he is barred from recovering any damages. However, if his degree of fault is below the threshold, his compensation is reduced by his percentage of fault. For example, if the threshold is 50% and the injured party is found to be 40% at fault, he would receive 60% of the total damages.

It should be noted that in England and Wales the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 provides that the court will determine the degree of fault of the injured party who contributed partly to his own injury and apportion the damages according to the his share of responsibility. The Act does not specify a threshold beyond which the injured party is barred from recovery, so it can be said that England and Wales largely follows the pure comparative negligence.

Comparative negligence is used to ensure a fair distribution of responsibility and compensation in cases where multiple parties share fault. It encourages individuals to take reasonable care for their own safety and minimises the potential for excessive compensation when the injured party is partially responsible for his own injuries. The specific rules and application of comparative negligence can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the laws of the relevant state or country.
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