The concept of negligence is of central importance in a personal injury claim. According to the legal definition, negligence is the known failure to act as a reasonable person would in a particular set of circumstances.
To win a personal injury claim, you must show that negligence rests either entirely or primarily with the other party in your claim. Every state works under a comparative or contributory negligence rule that governs the degree of fault, or responsibility you can hold, in a personal injury claim and still receive compensation for damages you suffered.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence
There are only a handful of jurisdictions that still use a contributory negligence or pure comparative negligence rule:
- the District of Columbia
- North Carolina
If you were careless, or negligent, in your own actions and therefore hold some degree of responsibility for your own injuries in these states, then you are not entitled to any compensation and can’t win a personal injury claim.
However in every other state, modified comparative negligence is the rule of law. The percentage of fault you can hold for your own injuries can’t be more than 50%, meaning you can’t be any more than half responsible for your own injuries and still be awarded damages in a personal injury claim.
In states where comparative negligence is allowed, even if you are partially responsible for your injuries, you may still be able to receive some amount of compensation. The amount of compensation is typically reduced by your degree of carelessness or liability.
In other words, if it’s proven that you are 10% responsible and the defendant is 90% responsible, the amount of damages you’re awarded in the claim will be reduced by 10% to account for your own negligence.
Establishing Negligence in Personal Injury Claims
Carelessness or negligence in an accident or injury scenario can take on many forms. A few examples from car accidents include:
- Speeding or driving recklessly
- Operating a vehicle when sleepy or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Interfering with or distracting the driver of a vehicle
Additional examples from other types of injury scenarios include:
- Failing to repair a sidewalk, stairs, or other public or visitor walkway
- Failing to provide adequate product warning information along with a purchase
It’s important to understand that you may also hold some responsibility for your own injuries. The defense in a personal injury claim could then try to prove you are primarily at fault. Here are just a few examples of carelessness on your part that can influence comparative negligence determinations in a personal injury claim:
- Reaching over a fence to pet a dog and subsequently being bitten
- Disregarding posted signs about wet floors or other potentially dangerous conditions
- Failing to read product use or warning information
- Texting, talking on the phone, or otherwise failing to pay attention to the road while driving
How a Lawyer can Help Prove Negligence
Navigating a personal injury claim and proving negligence can be difficult without legal representation. An attorney understands the comparative negligence statutes of your home jurisdiction and knows how to collect the necessary evidence to document carelessness or liability on the part of the defendant in your claim.
A personal injury attorney can help you establish a defense against the defendant’s arguments if you happen to be partly liable for your injuries. Since your degree of liability determines whether you can file a claim and the amount of compensation you could receive, an attorney’s assistance in establishing negligence is important.
You can speak with a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation to help you decide if you would like representation and if filing a personal injury lawsuit is in your best interest.