How Comparative Negligence Can Affect Your Injury Case
When you are injured, and you sue for your injuries, you expect that the court and the jury will look at the Defendant, and determine whether or not the Defendant was negligent or careless to an extent that caused your injury. What you may not expect or anticipate, is the Defendant turning around and pointing the finger at you.
In fact, if the Defendant blames you for your own accident, it may feel like the entire case is now about you, criticizing what you did or did not do.
This is because of what is known as comparative negligence. Comparative negligence allows a Defendant to blame you for some portion of your own injuries or for the accident itself. The Defendant can also say that you had the chance to avoid the accident, but that you did not.
Comparative negligence is a valid defense for Defendants to use, although it is often used frivolously, and without any basis or merit. But when it is used, victims need to be careful, because should the jury believe you, your recovery in trial can be limited, if not completely barred.
Defendants often say that victims are responsible for the accident, or that victims didn’t do things to avoid an accident. For example, they may:
-Blame a slip and fall victim for not seeing a dangerous condition on the floor
-Blame a pedestrian for jumping out into the street before being hit by car
-Blame someone engaged in an extreme sport, for not taking required safety precautions
-Blame a victim injured by product, for not following the products’ directions
-Blame a victim for not getting medical attention, or not following their doctors’ orders
The Defendant needs to prove that you contributed to your own accident, or that you were negligent or liable for the accident or for your injuries.
When you are blamed for your own injuries in trial, the jury will apportion liability. It will say that you were a certain percentage responsible for your own accident or injuries. Whatever percentage you are deemed to be liable for your own accident, you will not be able to collect as damages.
So, for example, if your injuries are worth $100,000, but the jury says you are 20% responsible for your own injuries, you would only be awarded $80,000.
Getting Nothing at All
But there is another danger when it comes to comparative negligence: If you are 51% or more liable or responsible for your own injuries, you recover nothing. So, in our example above, if your injury was worth $100,000, but you were 51% liable for the accident, you recover absolutely nothing-a zero verdict.
Not every state has this rule, but Massachusetts does. In some states, victims can recover, no matter how much they were liable for their own injuries or the accident.
If you are blamed for your own accident or injuries, you need to take that allegation seriously. We can help you fight against the insurance company’s defenses. Ask us today. Call the Boston personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Joseph Linnehan, Jr. at 617-275-4200