Normally after an accident the first thing that happens is figuring out who was responsible. In general, car accident responsibility comes down to negligence. If a person can be proven to have been acting negligent, then they will be held responsible for the car accident. A person is determined to be negligent if they act in such a way that they breach an established duty of reasonable care, and that breach of duty is what caused the accident.
However, in some cases, both parties may be partially responsible for the accident due to negligence. This is where the concepts of contributory and comparative negligence are relevant.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence
Contributory and comparative negligence is used to determine fault when multiple parties might be responsible for an accident. You can think of the two concepts as ways of understanding shared responsibility for some accident.
Contributory: Contributory negligence is a relatively strict system of negligence that absolves one of receiving damages if it can be proven that negligence on their part also contributed to the accident in any way. In other words, if A can prove that a negligent action on B’s part contributed to the accident in any way, then B will not be legally entitled to receive any compensation from A.
Contributory negligence is a pretty strict system and only a few states still have it. Indiana only uses this system of negligence for claims against state entities, through the Indiana Tort Claims Act.
Comparative: According to comparative negligence rules, Driver A’s liability can be reduced, but not entirely eliminated, if it can be shown that negligence on B’s part partially caused the accident. Comparative negligence is a more relaxed standard than contributory negligence.
With comparative negligence, the exact liability is determined by the percentage by which each person is responsible for the accident. For example, if A is 80% responsible for the accident and B is 20% responsible and wants $100,000, the B can only collect $80,000 from A. This is a simplified example, but gets the main point across.
Some states operate on so-called “pure” and “modified” comparative negligence rules. In “pure” states, victims can still receive compensation from others if their negligence contributed to the accident, no matter how negligent they were being. Even if the victim’s degree of fault is higher, they can still get some compensation.
“Modified” comparative negligence rules limit a victim’s compensation depending on their degree of responsibility. For example, in some modified comparative negligence states, accident victims can only collect on damages if they were less than 50% responsible for the accident.
The state of Indiana specifically has modified comparative negligence rules. According to Indiana rules, victims must be less than 50% at fault for an accident to pursue a personal injury claim. If they are deemed 51% or more at fault they receive nothing.
When and how to file a personal injury lawsuit, and when to contact a local personal accident injury attorney is all dependent on the specific situation. If you’re not sure whether or not you need to be searching for a personal injury lawyer, contact Hurst Limontes LLC today to have your questions answered.