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Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence

Depending on the particular car accident case, when you are involved in auto accident litigation, you may have to go to court to distribute the damage award. If the court finds both the plaintiff and defendant negligent, again depending on location and other factors, the fact finders determine what percentage of fault each party is responsible for. This is the apportionment.

Pure Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence states that if the plaintiff is found even remotely responsible for his own injury after an auto accident, he cannot receive any damages from the defendant.

The states that still use pure contributory negligence are Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, and the District of Columbia.

Pure Comparative Negligence

In the pure comparative negligence system, the plaintiff may recover damages minus his degree of fault. This means that if the plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages, but the is found at fault for 25% of his injury, the plaintiff could still receive 75% of the $100,000 award.

States using pure comparative negligence are Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.

Modified Comparative Fault

In states that use a modified comparative fault rule, the plaintiff will not receive any portion of the payout if he is equally or more at fault for the sustained damages. That is to say, the plaintiff must be at fault for less than 50% or 51% of damages (depending on the respective state’s rules) in order to recover damages.

If the plaintiff is at fault for less than 50% of the damages, he will be able to receive a percentage of the payout. For instance, if the plaintiff is at fault for 20% of the damages, and the defendant is responsible for 80%, the plaintiff can still recover 80% of the damage award. If, however, the plaintiff is at fault for 60% of the damages, he cannot receive payout.

States using the 50 percent modified comparative fault include Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.

States using the 51 percent rule are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

All information is from September 2014.