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Do I have a personal injury claim if the accident is partly my fault?

When a personal injury claim is filed, the jury or judge will determine which person or person(s) caused the accident. The court generally requires the person who caused the accident to pay for the resulting damages or the cost of the injuries.

What if more than one person caused the accident? State laws determine how the negligence is distributed between each party. For instance, the court may decide both the defendant and the plaintiff were negligent and will allocate damages according to state laws.

States use four different systems for allocating damages: pure contributory negligence, pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence – 50% bar rule, and modified comparative negligence – 51% bar rule.

Contributory Negligence

• Pure Contributory Negligence

Traditionally, contributory negligence laws were the standard throughout the United States. These laws stated that a person could only recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit if their actions did not contribute to the accident in any way. Most states have moved away from this method of allocating damages due to the harshness of the law.

Contributory negligence has gradually been replaced by a system of comparative negligence which parties are awarded damages based on the percentage of their fault. Currently, only five (5) states, including the District of Columbia, follow the pure contributory negligence rule (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C.

Comparative Negligence

States which use a comparative negligence system allow the parties in a personal injury claim to recover compensation for their losses even if their actions contributed to the accident. There are three separate types of comparative negligence variations: pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence – 51% rule, or modified comparative negligence – 50% rule.

• Pure Comparative Negligence

Pure comparative negligence systems allow the parties in a personal injury claim to receive compensation even if they were 99% at-fault for the accident, but the amount awarded is reduced by their level of fault. Currently, 13 states follow this method of allocating compensation in a personal injury claim: Alaska, Arizona pure comparative negligence, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington.

• Modified Comparative Fault (50% Rule)

This system allows parties in a personal injury claim to recover compensation for their personal injuries only if their level of fault does not reach 50%. If the party is determined to be more than 50% at fault, they are barred from receiving damages for their losses. Twelve states use the modified comparative negligence (50% rule) to allocate damages: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.

• Modified comparative negligence (51% rule)

This system allows the injured parties to recover damages if they are determined to be 50% or less at-fault for the accident. Damages are awarded according to the degree of guilt of each party. Currently, twenty-one states use this method to allocate damages in a personal injury lawsuit: 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.

Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you are considering filing a personal injury claim there are fundamental elements of your case which must be proven. If you cannot prove that the defendant owed you a duty, that they breached their duty, that you have suffered actual harm or loss or that the defendant was the “proximate cause” or your harm or loss, you will not win your personal injury claim.

Talk to a personal injury lawyer immediately if you have been injured. They can review your case and outline the types of damages that you can expect to receive if you win your injury lawsuit.