Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence

Can I Still Receive Compensation if the Accident Was Partially My Fault?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident or other type of personal injury case, you may be wondering if you can collect damages from the other party’s insurance company. This will depend on the laws of the jurisdiction where your accident occurred. Some states have comparative negligence laws, while others have a standard of contributory negligence.

Utah has a modified comparative negligence rule, which means that you can receive compensation even if the accident was partially your fault, so long as you are less than 50 percent responsible for the accident.

Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence Explained

• Contributory Negligence – In states with this standard, if you are partially at fault for the accident, even a little bit, you cannot recover any damages at all. The only states with pure contributory negligence rules are Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, and North Carolina.

• Comparative Negligence – States like California, Florida, and New York allow plaintiffs to receive compensation when they were partially or even mostly at fault for the accident. The court will ask a judge or jury to find at what percent the plaintiff is liable for the accident.

If the injured party is 40 percent liable for the accident, that percentage will be removed from the amount of damages they can receive. If a plaintiff is awarded a settlement of $10,000.00, but the judge or jury finds that he or she was 40 percent at fault for the accident, he or she would only receive 60 percent of the award – $6,000.00. The award will always be offset by the percentage of the plaintiff’s negligence.

• Modified Comparative Negligence – Many states, including Utah, Colorado, Texas, and Montana, use a system that comes between contributory negligence and pure comparative negligence.

In Utah, you cannot recover damages for an accident if you were more responsible for the accident than the other party. Utah Code Ann. §78B-5-818. If you were 49 percent at fault for the accident, you can recover 49 percent of the damage award. If you were 50 percent at fault, you cannot recover anything. The defendant’s negligence must always be higher than the plaintiff’s.

Utah is a modified comparative negligence state with a 50 percent at-fault bar. That means that if you are at least half at fault for the accident, you are not entitled to damages. If you are less than 50% at fault, you can recover a partial damage award offset by the percentage of fault you had in the accident.

Determining fault as a percentage based on real-life events is difficult. If the parties cannot agree on who was at fault, it is up to what lawyers call the “trier of fact,” to determine those numbers. The trier of fact is the person, either judge or jury, who adjudicates the evidence to determine which facts are true. This usually happens at trial. Cases where there is comparative negligence are harder to settle outside of court.

A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You

Settling a personal injury case on your own can be a daunting task. Even in the most clear-cut cases, insurance companies rarely make it easy to recover the damages you are owed. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to offer you a free case evaluation, compile evidence, and prove the defendant’s negligence.

The Advocates injury law firm has been helping Utah injury victims for more than 30 years. We understand Utah’s modified comparative fault laws inside and out and are ready to help you with your personal injury claim.

Contact us today for a free consultation. You deserve an attorney who will fight for you and your recovery. You deserve an Advocate.

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