I learned about negligence laws this week. This is an essential topic for lawyers and their clients to understand. 

If you shared fault in an accident, you may be hesitant to sue other liable parties in your accident. Depending on your state’s negligence laws, however, you may still have the right to recover compensation for your losses.

Many states have modified comparative negligence laws that allow victims to recover compensation as long as they’re less than 49 or 50 percent at fault for the accident. Other states have pure comparative negligence laws that allow victims to recover compensation regardless of their percentage of fault. There are only a handful of states with contributory negligence laws that ban recovery of compensation if victims share fault in an accident.

Pure Comparative Negligence

A Los Angeles personal injury lawyer explain to me that California has a pure comparative negligence law, which is the most lenient type of negligence law. States with pure comparative negligence laws allow all victims in accidents to recover compensation regardless of their percentage of fault; however, the court will deduct each victim’s percentage of fault from their overall settlement amount.

Knowing how much fault you contributed to your accident is essential before moving forward with your claim, because if you contributed a large percentage and your claim value is small, then filing a lawsuit may not be worth it. For example, if you were 80 percent at fault for your accident and your damages are valued at $2,000, then you’ll only receive $400.

Modified Comparative Negligence

In states with modified comparative negligence laws, you can file a claim for compensation as long as you were less than 49 or 50 percent at fault for causing the accident. Once you determine that you’re eligible to file a claim, the court will deduct your percentage of fault from your settlement just like they would in a state with a pure comparative negligence law. 

Contributory Negligence

States with contributory negligence laws don’t allow you to take legal action if you’re even one percent at fault for an accident. This can feel unfair because the other liable party in your accident may be 90 percent at fault, but if you contributed even a small percentage of fault, you’ll be liable for your own medical expenses and other damages.

Knowing the negligence laws in your state is essential if you want to calculate your claim value and pursue your case with confidence. As a pre-law student, I’m glad I learned these laws, because one day I’ll be able to help my clients assess their percentage of fault so they can know whether taking legal action is worth it.

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