In all personal injury claims, negligence and fault must be present to have a valid case. Sometimes, it’s easy to see who was at fault. Other times, there may be multiple parties at fault. Even with only two parties, both may share some of the blame.
This is where it helps to know about comparative and contributory negligence. The court may find that in your personal injury, you displayed contributory negligence. This may mean that you receive reduced compensation to cover your damages.
Take a look at these legal terms and how they can impact your personal injury case.
What Is Contributory Negligence?
Contributory negligence is when an injury victim is found to have contributed to their injuries due to their own negligence. If this is the case, then the defendant most likely won’t have to pay as much to you for your injuries. They may not even have to pay a penny!
Since it can lead to unfair court rulings, contributory negligence isn’t always used. Instead, they choose to use comparative negligence, which is a form of contributory negligence.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence, often called modified contributory negligence, is what the court uses to determine a percentage of negligence for the injured party. While you will share the blame with the other party, you can still recover compensation for your damages.
Since the awarded compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault, you may want to speak with an attorney about your personal injury claim. Investigations may reveal that you had a smaller percentage of fault than what the defendant’s side is claiming. You may have had no fault at all. In these cases, you will want to be certain you get a fair settlement.
How Do the Courts Determine the Percentage of Negligence Personal Injury Cases?
In a personal injury lawsuit, either the judge or a jury will review the evidence of negligence for both sides. They will then determine a percentage of fault based on what they have reviewed. They may also consider suggestions from each attorney.
Past findings from similar cases may also be relevant in determining this percentage. After the review, the percentage of fault will be assigned to each party. As the plaintiff, you will receive your compensation award minus the percentage of fault the court deemed you to have for your injuries.
What to Know About Comparative Negligence Laws in Pittsburgh
Comparative negligence laws in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, allow you to seek compensation for your damages even if you shared some of the fault.
Keep in mind that your action or inaction is what serves as the basis for how the percentage of fault is doled out. In Pennsylvania, there is a 51% comparative negligence rule. This means you can recover economic and non-economic damages for your claim if you are found to be less than 51% at fault. If you are deemed to have more than 50% of the fault for your personal injury accident, you cannot seek compensation.
This rule can be applied in most personal injury cases, though the most common way you’ll see it used is in car accidents. Perhaps you were going just above the speed limit while you crossed through an intersection with a green light. The defendant ran the red light and struck your vehicle, leading to a T-bone accident. While they would certainly hold the majority of fault here, you may also be to blame for speeding.
The court may find that because you were speeding, you hold 20% of the fault. With this modified comparative negligence rule, this means you can only recover 80% of the awarded settlement.
The key to your success in your personal injury claim is showing the other party was negligent while having the evidence to show you were not.
What Is Evidence of Negligence?
In civil cases such as personal injury, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s negligence caused their injury. The defendant needs to have a duty of care in this situation. You must show they breached that duty, leading to your injuries.
In Pennsylvania, contributory negligence can come into play where the defendant must also prove you had a duty to take certain precautions. This counterargument can get complex, and the best course of action is to hire a personal injury attorney to ensure your rights are protected.
What You Can Do to Have a Strong Personal Injury Case
Whether you were in a car accident, suffered a slip and fall accident, got bitten by a dog, or experienced another personal injury, the insurance company and courts will look closely at the facts. They will then determine which party or parties caused the accident, which usually boils down to who acted with negligence.
If you want to give your case the best chance at success, you should ensure you have the evidence you need. The evidence will vary depending on what type of personal injury case you have on your hands. In a car accident, you will likely call the police and then have a police report to serve as evidence. It will show who was speeding or violating traffic laws, which could improve your case outcome.
In any type of personal injury, photos and videos can provide the necessary visuals of the aftermath. These can also be used to document your injuries, both immediately and as you recover.
Witness testimony can also be beneficial if anyone is there to see what happened. Other evidence may include surveillance cameras at businesses or on the roads, cell phone records, and any items related to the medical treatments you received.
Ultimately, working with a personal injury lawyer will help the most. It’s best to contact one as soon as possible following your injury. This allows them to gather evidence on your behalf, hire expert witnesses, and track down any eyewitnesses to help prove you weren’t negligent in your actions.