While some personal injuries are cut and dry, with all of the fault resting on the defendant’s shoulders, others involve fault on both sides. This shared fault, also referred to as comparative negligence, can create a messy settlement process.
Comparative negligence is defined as a partial legal defense that decreases the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover from a defendant, based on the way that the plaintiff’s negligence played into their own injury.
Here are a few scenarios that illustrate comparative negligence:
- A pedestrian is hit by a motorist while jaywalking.
- An unbuckled driver is hit by another car and receives injuries that would not have been as severe if he or she had been wearing a seatbelt.
- A person enters a hazardous area without wearing the required safety equipment and sustains injuries.
Complicating comparative negligence settlements is the fact that the laws that govern them are different from state to state. Here’s a closer look at the three main options that inform states’ shared negligence policies:
- Pure comparative fault: Roughly a dozen states adhere to this policy, which dictates that you are eligible for damages even if there is as little as one percent of fault on the defendant’s side (and up to 99 percent fault on yours as the plaintiff). Of course, your damages would be reduced according to your percentage of fault in the accident, but you would receive a settlement based on the defendant’s share of negligence—no matter how small. An example of this would be that you got in an accident with damages valued at $100,000 but are determined to be 60 percent at fault. As a result, you could claim 40 percent of the damages, or $40,000.
- Modified comparative fault: This doctrine is followed in the majority of states and says that you can collect damages only if you were less than 50 or 51 percent culpable for an accident. (Some states go by the 50 percent threshold, others go by 51 percent.) If it is determined that you were more than 50 or 51 percent at fault, you won’t be eligible to receive compensation for the losses that you sustained. So back to the example of an accident with $100,000 in damages, let’s assume that you’re living in a “51 percent” state. If you are determined to be 50 percent culpable, you would receive damages reduced by 50 percent for a total of $50,000. If you were determined to be 52 percent at fault, however, you couldn’t recover damages.
- Pure contributory negligence: Only a handful of states enact this rigid rule that dictates that if you have any fault in an accident, you cannot sue for damages. This means that even if your culpability only amounts to a few percentage points, you have no recourse.
If you are a Nevada resident, you may be wondering where our state falls on this spectrum. Nevada has a modified comparative fault policy, allowing you to sue for damages if your actions constituted less than half of the fault in an injury accident.
Many people fail to seek compensation for their accident injuries, assuming that their rights are forfeited because they shared in the fault in some way. By doing this, they miss out on their right to recover awards that they are owed.
If you have been injured in the Las Vegas area due to the negligence of others, even if you contributed in some way to the accident, it’s important to enlist the help of an experienced Las Vegas accident injury attorney. Because the determination of your fault in the accident will greatly influence your damages, you need a professional on your side to represent you well so that you can get the compensation that you deserve.