Two main negligence concepts exist in personal injury law: contributory negligence and comparative negligence. Contributory negligence bars an injured person, or plaintiff, from any damage award if he or she contributed to the injuries at all. Comparative negligence laws, on the other hand, aim to compensate the plaintiff for at least partial damages, according to his or her percentage of fault. Most states abide by comparative negligence laws.
Within the legal concept of comparative negligence are two subcategories: modified vs. pure comparative negligence. In a pure comparative negligence state, a plaintiff can carry any percentage of fault, even 99%, and still be eligible for damages. Modified states impose a certain limit on the plaintiff’s degree of fault, above which, the plaintiff forfeits recovery. Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state.
Pennsylvania’s Negligence Laws
Section 7102 of the Pennsylvania General Assembly contains the state’s modified comparative negligence rule. It states that the plaintiff’s contributory negligence will not bar his or her recovery, as long as the negligence does not surpass the causal negligence of the defendant. The plaintiff’s percentage of fault, therefore, must remain at or below 50% to still be eligible for financial recovery. The defendant’s percentage of fault must reach 50% or greater for the plaintiff to receive any money.
The second part of Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence statute states that the courts will diminish any damages the plaintiff sustained in proportion to his or her contributory negligence. The courts will determine the plaintiff’s percentage of fault based on the evidence at hand. Then, the courts will reduce the plaintiff’s alleged damages by an amount equal to his or her percentage of comparative fault for the accident.
If the plaintiff’s original damages equaled $100,000, for example, but the courts found the plaintiff 20% at fault, the courts would reduce the damages sustained by $20,000, or 20% of $100,000. The plaintiff would receive, therefore, $80,000 instead of the full $100,000. The higher the plaintiff’s percentage of fault, the smaller the recovery – until the plaintiff exceeds 50%, at which point the recovery amount will drop to $0.
How Do the Courts Assign Negligence?
It is important for personal injury plaintiffs to minimize their own degree of fault, so that they can maximize their financial compensation awards. Hiring an attorney can help prove that the defendant was more than 50% responsible for the incident. An attorney understands how the courts determine negligence. The courts will give both sides of the case an opportunity to present evidence of the other side’s fault. Evidence may include eyewitness statements, expert testimony, photographs, and documentation.
Next, the courts will assign percentages of fault to one, two, or more parties according to who or what caused the accident. In contributory negligence states, the courts will bar a plaintiff from recovery if he or she is just 1% at fault. Luckily, Pennsylvania’s modified comparative negligence laws are more beneficial to accident victims. As long as you or your lawyer can prove that the defendant was more at fault than you, you can receive compensation.
Can You Minimize Your Liability?
Your financial recovery in a personal injury lawsuit should help you pay off your medical bills, live comfortably again, and move on after a serious accident. You could recover for your past and future medical costs, lost wages, property damages, and pain and suffering with a successful personal injury lawsuit.
Using a lawyer to represent your side of a case can strengthen your arguments and help convince a judge or jury that the defendant should absorb more than 49% of the liability for your damages. A lawyer can help you fight for fair and full recovery for your serious injury and related damages. Instead of struggling through your case alone and potentially risking $0 in compensation because of comparative fault, trust an attorney to navigate your claim on your behalf.