Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence

Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence

If you’ve been involved in an accident, you may be wondering how your insurance company and/or a court of law will assign fault to your case. In order to understand the process in which fault is determined after an accident, it helps to first understand the difference between contributory and comparative negligence. Negligence is negligence, […]

If you’ve been involved in an accident, you may be wondering how your insurance company and/or a court of law will assign fault to your case. In order to understand the process in which fault is determined after an accident, it helps to first understand the difference between contributory and comparative negligence.

Negligence is negligence, right?

Not necessarily. ‘Negligence’ refers to any action or actions that create an unreasonable risk of harm to others. If you’re found to be negligent after an accident that’s resulted in either an injury or damage to property, you’re required to pay for the damages you’ve caused. Each state handles determining each party’s fault a little differently. In some states, if you’re found to be even the smallest bit at fault, you’re automatically ineligible to receive damages. In other states, a judge or jury will review evidence and then assign a percentage to your negligence. This percentage will determine what types of damages you’re eligible to receive.

car accident with overturned car

Contributory Negligence

Contributory Negligence describes conduct that creates unreasonable risk to one’s self, and is based on the idea that an individual has the responsibility to behave themselves in a reasonable manner. When someone ceases to act reasonably and injures someone else in the process, that person has contributed to the resulting injury, so they’re (at least partially) responsible for paying any damages that result from the accident. For example, if you attempt to file a claim after you’re hit by a car while jaywalking, you’re likely to receive a Contributory Negligence counterclaim from the other party – since it can be argued that you contributed to your injury by deciding to jaywalk.

Comparative Negligence

Most states use a variation of the Comparative Negligence model when determining which party is responsible for paying damages after an accident. Both Colorado and Nevada use what’s called a Modified Comparative Fault system. In Modified Comparative Fault states, a judge or jury assigns fault based on a percentage system, and then damages are awarded accordingly. Colorado awards damages based on the 50% rule, which means that an injured person can only recover damages if they’re found to be less than 50% at fault. Nevada uses a 51% rule, meaning that an injured party can recover damages if they’re found to be 50% or less at fault.

When to Seek an Attorney

Finding an experienced personal injury attorney you can trust to act in your best interests is one of the most important things you can do after you’ve been injured in an accident. The Bourassa Law Group is committed to providing the highest quality legal representation in Las Vegas. If you’ve been injured after an accident, please get in touch with one of our friendly, compassionate representatives to schedule your free consultation today.

Accident photo courtesy of: Aaron Parecki