What if My Actions Contributed to My Injury?

So what happens if more than one person's actions caused the injuries to a claimant? The judge or jury will allocate the amount or percentage that each party was negligent. Depending on the jurisdiction, this allocation will directly impact the damages awarded.

There are several methods used throughout the United States to establish damages in an injury case. States can use pure contributory negligence, pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence – 50% bar rule, and modified comparative negligence – 51% bar rule.

Pure contributory negligence

Although most states have moved away from this method for allocating damages, there are still five states plus the District of Columbia which use the pure contributory negligence model. In these states, if you are injured from the negligence of another person but your actions contributed in any way to your own injuries, you are barred from collecting any compensation. For example, if Shawn and Susan were in an accident where Susan was injured, and Susan was only 5% at fault, she would recover nothing for her injuries.

Comparative Negligence

In a comparative negligence system, you may be able to recover damages even if your actions contributed to your injuries. In a pure comparative negligence system the judge determines fault and allocates damages according to the percentages determined. Thirteen states follow a pure comparative negligence system: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington.

In some states, however, they use a modified comparative negligence system, although there are two different models. In one model, called the 51% rule, plaintiffs can receive compensation as long as their fault is less than 51%, although their recovery amount is still reduced by their degree of guilt. States using the comparative fault 51% rule include 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.

The remaining states use a modified comparative negligence system, but they have a 50% rule. Under this rule, compensation is only awarded to the plaintiff if the court determines their degree of fault is 49% or less. If the injured party's fault level reaches 50%, they are barred from recovering damages for their injuries or loss. The following states use this system: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.

Because state laws vary and there are many exceptions to the standard negligence systems in some states, if you have been injured due to the negligence of another person or medical provider it is always a good idea to discuss your case with a medical malpractice lawyer.

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