Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence In Personal Injury Claims

by gclatworthy on July 30, 2012

(US personal injury laws & generally) When a person files a lawsuit claiming they were physically or emotionally harmed due to the negligence of another, it is called a personal injury claim. In order to succeed in a personal injury claim, your personal injury lawyer must be able to prove the negligence of the other party was partially or fully responsible for your injuries. Each state has their own laws governing these claims. 

When proving negligence, it can be difficult to assign 100% of the blame to just one party. There are often actions by more than one party in any incident that might contribute to the overall damages. Negligence itself is defined as a disregard for the duty we each hold as a member of society. Law firm Tenn and Tenn, based in New Hampshire, offer the following definition of negligence: “Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care. In other words, negligence is any conduct that falls below the standard of care established by law to protect others from the unreasonable risk of harm.”  For example, as a driver, you have a duty to follow the traffic laws and operate your vehicle safely. If you fail to do so, and you cause an accident, you could be held liable for any damages that occur due to your negligence.

Contributory Negligence

Only a few states still calculate damages based on contributory negligence. Let’s look at an example of contributory negligence as it applies to a simple car accident to understand why most states have abandoned it. If two people are in a car accident and both parties contributed to the accident, there could not be a successful claim for damages. As long as both people contributed in any way to the accident, then no damages can be awarded. This sounds drastic, because it is. A New Hampshire personal injury lawyer explains that you can be 99% responsible for an accident, but under contributory negligence you would not be held responsible for the personal injury damages because the other driver was found to have contributed the other 1%. The stark and unfair nature of this defense is the reason so few states still allow it.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a much more common-sense system. This damage calculation takes into account the percentage of blame and assigns damages using a formula based on comparative negligence. In some states, it is necessary that an attorney prove that the defendant was 51% responsible in order to win damages. In other states, damages are apportioned based on the percentage of blame that a jury or judge finds belongs to each party in the accident. There are several modified comparative negligence formulas and each state decides which they will use for each type of personal injury tort. New Hampshire, for instance, is a modified comparative fault state. As long as the damaged party was less than 50% responsible for the accident, they can recover damages.

If you have been in an accident, and you are looking for the most experienced personal injury lawyer Manchester NH has to offer, it is vital you do your research. Understanding the legal system in your state is a great first step to helping you make an informed choice about your legal representation.

Article written by Georgina Clatworthy who is a legal researcher and former editor of a popular legal blog.  She is now a contributing writer for the accident lawyers at Tenn and Tenn who can offer expert advice and guidance to those seeking injury compensation witihn the state of New Hampshire.

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