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What is Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania? 

By: Anapol Weiss

Pure comparative negligence is what makes receiving a damage settlement for a personal injury in Pennsylvania possible, even if you were partially at fault for the accident. Not all accidents are simple, two-party cases, with one party injured through no fault of their own and the other party solely responsible.

Comparative negligence is a method of determining who shares responsibility in the case of an accident, how much, and how that affects compensation for the victims. Cases relying on pure comparative fault can be complicated, and you’ll need the help of an experienced attorney to make sure you get the money you deserve.

The Pure Comparative Negligence Rule

Different jurisdictions use different rules when determining fault in cases resulting in damages. While in some jurisdiction, if the victim has any liability for the incident, they are not entitled to compensation. In Pennsylvania, that’s not the case. Even if you are partially at-fault for an accident that injured you, you may still be eligible for compensation from other at-fault parties.

Pure comparative negligence means that when determining compensation for a claim, each party is only responsible for a percentage of damages equal to the percentage of fault assigned by the judge or jury in the case. This is useful anytime there is more than a single party at fault in an injury claim.

Proving Negligence

Before comparative negligence can be apportioned, a party’s fault has to be proven. This relies on demonstrating four criteria. This applies to all parties that may be at fault, even the victim in some cases.

Duty Or Expectation

In order for there to be fault, there has to be an expectation of proper behavior or a duty to fulfill certain obligations. Other drivers are expected to stop at stop signs. Stores have a duty to maintain a safe environment. Doctors are trusted to make proper decisions for our medical care based on science and established treatment protocols.

Breach Of Duty

The next criteria considered with pure comparative negligence is the breach of duty. This happens when, either through action or inaction, a party fails to meet the expectations they operate under, and the extent of this breach often relates directly to the percentage of liability they’re assigned. Failing to stop for a stop sign, neglecting to clean a spill on a supermarket floor, or not verifying a patient’s allergies may all be considered a breach of duty.

Damage Occurs

You must have been damaged in some manner. Whether this is property damage, such as in the case of a car accident, or injured physically or psychologically, there must be harm for you to seek compensation.

Direct Causation

Finally, you must connect the previous three criteria by showing causation. Another driver ran a stop sign when they shouldn’t crashing into your vehicle. A store failed to mop up a spill, causing a slip and fall injury. A doctor injected you with medicine you were allergic to, making you sick and causing you to have a painful reaction. All of these show the four criteria used to determine negligence.

How Pure Comparative Negligence Comes Into Play

When you file a claim for damages, the court will examine the negligence involved. In a simple case where there is one party solely at fault and another party is the victim, the result is fairly straightforward. The defendant will be 100% responsible for any damages awarded. In other situations, however, pure comparative negligence provides a framework for dividing compensation. For example:

Example 1

In a retail setting, vendors are often responsible for stocking delivered products in the area allotted for their brand. While checking in a new delivery of beer with the store manager, the beer vendor drops a bottle, creating a spill. Behind schedule, the vendor hastily wipes at the mess, removing glass but failing to clean up the entirety of the spill before shelving the products and leaving the area.

Later, a shopper slips on a remaining puddle, injuring their back. The court might find that both the vendor and the store were equally negligent. Any damages awarded to the victim would be split evenly in responsibility between the vendor and the store.

Example 2

Running late for work, a motorist is traveling just 3 MPH over the speed limit. As they approach an intersection, another motorist performs a “rolling stop” at a stop sign. The two vehicles collide, resulting in an injury to the motorist rushing to work.

The court might find that while failing to stop was the primary cause of the accident (75%), the speeding motorist caused the other driver to miscalculate the space available to cross the intersection, making them also partially at fault (25%). In this instance, damages would still be owed, but since the injured party was also at fault, pure comparative negligence causes the compensation to be reduced by 25%, their portion of fault for the accident.

In even more complex cases, such as multi-vehicle pile-ups or cases of malpractice within a medical facility over a long hospital stay, there can be even more parties who may be liable for damages. Pure comparative fault allows the injured party to be justly compensated while making sure that every liable party is responsible for their proportionate part of the damages.

Protecting Your Rights To Fair Compensation

When dealing with pure comparative fault, it’s important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney that can help you unwrap the layers of negligence involved so you can be fairly compensated for property damage, injuries, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

Your attorney will work to not only prove the negligence of other parties but defend your actions so your award isn’t unjustly lowered by an incorrect comparative negligence finding. If you’ve been harmed by another’s negligence, you can get the financial compensation you need.. Contact Anapol Weiss for a free consultation about your case today.