Can I Still Be Compensated for Injuries if I was Partially at Fault?

August 6, 2014

Establishing who is responsible for a personal injury is often not as easy as you might think. Many times, more than one person acted in a negligent way that caused your injury. Sometimes, even you may have contributed to your own injury through negligent behavior. Importantly, being partially at fault for your injuries does not prevent you from being compensated for your injuries.

What is Negligence?

Most personal injury accidents result from someone’s negligent behavior. For instance, if you are driving through an intersection and hit by someone who failed to stop at a stop light, the person who hit you was driving negligently. A person is negligent when he or she fails to behave with the same care that a person of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same situation. In order show that someone was at fault – and therefore liable – for your injury, you must show that a court that a legal duty existed to exercise reasonable care, that the person failed to exercise that care, that the harm was caused by the negligent conduct, and that the harm was within the scope of liability.

Contributory Negligence

If more than one person is at fault determinations of liability vary depending on the state you live in. There are a handful of states, for example, that will bar recovery if you contributed to your injury in any way. This is called the doctrine of contributory negligence, and it is followed in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Under contributory negligence, if you contributed to the accident in any way whatsoever, you may be barred from receiving compensation for your injuries.

Comparative Negligence

Most states, however, do not use contributory negligence because it can result in harsh outcomes. Most states operate under one of two comparative negligence schemes. Comparative negligence allows the court to allocate fault between parties, and then compensate those parties accordingly.
California uses a “pure comparative negligence” system. Under this system, a plaintiff will receive the amount of damages awarded, subtracted from the percentage he or she was at fault. So, for instance, take an example where you are injured in an auto accident because someone hit you, but you were driving over the speed limit, which also contributed to the accident. In this scenario, a jury may find the other driver 90 percent at fault for the accident and you 10 percent at fault for the accident. Your total damages were $100,000, but because you were 10 percent at fault, you will only receive $90,000. Hence, even if you were partially at fault for your injuries, you can still receive compensation. This is true even if you were more at fault than the other person. In the example above, if you were 70 percent responsible for the car accident because of your speeding, you could still be compensated 30 percent of your damages. The state of California set out this rule in a case called Li v. Yellow Cab Co.
If you have questions regarding an accident that you partially caused or would like to speak someone at our office, contact us anytime.