If you’re being accused of negligence, you’re being accused of failing to exercise a reasonable amount of care. Usually an incident has occurred if someone is making this accusation and there was some sort of loss incurred. The question is now raised, “Who is at fault?” There are multiple options for mounting a defense against negligence. One of the more popular defenses is contributory negligence. Let’s look at why a contributory negligence defense may be a good option in a negligence case.
Contributory negligence is a nice way of saying that the accuser is partly responsible for the negative outcome they’re accusing you of causing. It means that the plaintiff failed to exercise a reasonable amount of care for their own safety and that the fault should be shared. For example, a young lady is struck by a car while crossing the street. She was in the crosswalk but ignored the “Do Not Cross” sign that was illuminated when she was struck. Her inattention to the posted pedestrian sign can be considered contributory negligence. She played an active role in being struck while crossing the street. If the defendant is able to prove contributory negligence, the plaintiff will likely be ineligible to recover full damages for the injury incurred.
Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence is when a court has to decide how much of the fault belongs to the plaintiff and the defendant because both parties are responsible for the injury. Once fault is assigned, damages are awarded proportionally according to the assigned negligence. The difference between the two is that contributory negligence is concerned with assigning fault and reducing the plaintiff’s damages, while comparative negligence is concerned with spreading out financial responsibility among the at-fault parties. State laws differ, so it should be noted that contributory negligence may not be a viable defense as many states have chosen to use comparative over contributory.
Modified Comparative Negligence
In an effort to be fair and reasonable, some states have chosen to use a modified version of comparative negligence. This rule awards damages for the portion of an injury that is not the fault of the plaintiff. But damages will only be awarded if the plaintiff’s responsibility is less than the state’s specified threshold. This threshold is most often 50 or 51 per cent. This means that if the plaintiff is found 30 per cent responsible for their injury, the defendant would be responsible for covering 70 per cent of the plaintiff’s damages. But if the plaintiff is found to be 60 per cent responsible for the injury, the defendant will not be legally required to compensate the plaintiff. You’ll see this often in insurance suits.
Unfortunately accidents happen, and sometimes compensation is necessary for these unforeseen circumstances. But if you’re accused of being negligent and you think that you’re not to blame, be sure to talk to an attorney about your case and whether you can or should mount a contributory negligence counterclaim. Working with an experienced lawyer can make a difference in your case’s outcome.