Understanding Contributory Negligence

When a person is injured in an accident, a common defense is contributory negligence. This is a legal term that implies that yes, the person who caused the accident did something wrong, but the person that got injured was doing something wrong too. The wrongdoer is essentially deflecting his wrongdoing onto the injured party. In auto accidents, a wrongdoer may allege that the injured party was distracted, texting, speeding, or doing something else that contributed to the cause of the accident.

What Does Comparative Negligence Mean for My Auto Accident Case?

If you have been harmed in an auto accident, you may seek legal recourse by filing a lawsuit. When you commence a lawsuit by filing a complaint with the court, the defendant, or the person you are saying caused the accident, has an opportunity to answer and confirm or deny the charges against them.  In this answer, a defendant can allege “comparative negligence,” saying that the plaintiff himself contributed to his own injury and that the defendant should not be responsible, or at least partially not responsible.

If  I Was At Fault at All Does This Mean I Cannot Recover Damages for My Injuries?

Not necessarily. There are three types of negligence recognized in U.S. courts:

  • Contributory negligence;
  • Pure comparative negligence; and
  • Partial comparative negligence.

Contributory Negligence

This uncommon form will bar recovery if a plaintiff is found even a little bit at fault for the accident. If it is determined that the plaintiff contributed to the accident in any way, it is a complete defense for the defendant and the plaintiff will not be able to recover any monetary damages for his or her injuries stemming from the accident at issue.

Pure and Partial Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence jurisdictions are far more common in present U.S. law. Jurisdictions recognizing comparative negligence will simply reduce a plaintiff’s recovery if they are found to be contributory negligent, and not bar completely. A partial comparative negligence state will only bar recovery if the plaintiff is found to be more responsible than the defendant (i.e. more than 50%). This is the current law in the state of Pennsylvania. In a pure comparative negligence state, even the more negligent party can recover so awards are not barred regardless of the relative fault.

Auto Accident Litigation in Pennsylvania

These comparative negligence regimes are designed to protect wrongdoers when they are deemed not wholly responsible for an act that caused injury to another. In Pennsylvania, so long as you are not deemed more at fault than the defendant, you can successfully recover damages for the harm the defendant caused. Our experienced Pennsylvania auto accident attorneys are always available to listen to your story and help you understand your legal rights after an accident. Contact our Jenkintown, Pennsylvania lawyers at Solnick & Associates today; we understand how comparative negligence works in our state and will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to under the law. We can help even if you may have been doing something wrong at the time of your accident.