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Comparative Negligence Standards

Comparative Negligence: In states that utilize comparative negligence theories, individuals may sue another motorist whether or not their own negligence played any role in the accident. However, recovery for damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to them. This situation is often referred to as “apportionment of fault” or “allocation of fault.” For example, in the above example, assume that the turning driver sues the speeding motorist for $100,000 in damages. At trial, a jury will be asked to determine what percentage of the accident was caused by the speeding and what percentage of the accident was caused by the turning driver’s failure to operate the turn signal. Assume further that the jury finds that the turning driver’s own negligence contributed to the accident by 30 percent and the negligence of the other motorist contributed to the accident by 70 percent. If the jury agrees that damages are worth $100,000 the turning driver would only be able to recover $70,000 in damages (or $100,000 reduced by 30 percent caused by that driver’s own negligence). If, conversely, the negligence was found to have contributed 70 percent to the accident, the driver could only recover $30,000 for the 30 percent fault for which the other tortfeasor was responsible. Again, this is true in states that apply a “pure” theory of comparative negligence. Other states have modified comparative negligence principles to permit a lawsuit only if a person is were less than 50 percent negligent.

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