What if I am Partially to Blame for my Injuries Caused by Another Person?
People sustain injuries in automobile accidents every day in the United States. In many cases, it can be tough to tell who is responsible for an accident in the immediate aftermath. For example, “Driver A” pulls out of her driveway without checking for oncoming traffic and is struck by “Driver B” travelling 25 miles above the speed limit. A common misconception is that “Driver A” won’t be able to recover compensation if she is found to be partially at fault for the accident that caused her injuries.
Oftentimes, the percentage of responsibility can be negotiated between the plaintiff and the defendant’s legal team or insurance company before ever reaching trial. If the case goes to trial, it is then up to the jury to decide what percentage of fault the plaintiff has for their injuries.
Depending on the state where the accident occurred, “Driver A” in the example above may still make a recovery, even if a jury determines that she shares fault in the accident that caused her injury. In addition, the total amount that “Driver A” is able to recover can be decided by how at-fault she was determined to be.
Contributory and Comparative Fault Rules Explained
In the United States, there are three types of negligence rules that are recognized depending on the state you are in: pure contributory negligence, pure comparative fault, and modified comparative fault.
Pure contributory negligence is only recognized in four states plus the District of Columbia. In these jurisdictions, if an injured party shares any amount of fault for the accident, they are unable to recover damages. For example, if a plaintiff is found to have been ten percent, five percent, or even one percent at-fault for the accident that caused their injury, they are unable to claim compensation from the other party. Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia recognize pure contributory negligence.
Due to the oftentimes harsh results from the contributory negligence system, the majority of states have adopted a form of comparative fault. The remaining 46 states recognize either pure comparative fault or modified comparative fault.
Thirteen states recognize pure comparative fault, which allows a plaintiff to recover damages if they are partially at fault for the accident. Even if the injured party is found to be 99 percent at fault, they can potentially recover compensation. However, the plaintiff’s award is reduced depending on their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is seeking $10,000 in damages and is found to be 90 percent at fault, they may only recover 10 percent, which is in this case $1,000.
Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington have pure comparative fault rules.
Texas is one of 33 states in the country that recognize a modified comparative fault rule. This rule, called proportionate responsibility in the state of Texas, allows injured parties to recover damages if they are partially at fault up to a certain percentage. States with modified comparative fault rules have adopted either a 50% Bar Rule or 51% Bar Rule.
- 51% Bar Rule – An injured party cannot recover damages if they are found to be 51% or more at fault in the accident. If the party is 50 percent at fault, they can make a recovery. Texas is one of 21 states that adheres to the 51% Bar Rule.
- Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming follow the 51% Bar Rule.
- 50% Bar Rule – An injured party cannot recover damages if they are found to be 50% or more at fault in the accident. If the party is found to be 49 percent at fault, they can still recover.
- Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia follow the 50% Bar Rule.
Similar to pure comparative fault rules, the injured plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by their degree of fault. If the injured party under the 51% Bar Rule modified comparative fault rule is found to be 50 percent at fault, for example, their recovery will be half of what the jury awards them.
Contact an Experienced Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, call Thomas J. Henry. You may think that your actions contributed to an accident that led to your injuries, but this does not necessarily preclude you from receiving compensation. Alternatively, the at-fault party’s defense team may attempt to shed liability from their client and put it on the injured party to lower the recovery amount. Our team of accident lawyers are available 24/7, nights and weekends to evaluate your claim. Contact us today and speak with attorney about your accident. Let us help you protect your rights as an accident victim and get you the compensation you deserve.