Comparative Negligence – Sharing the Liability
Most people have heard of negligence and most people are familiar with the idea in a negligence lawsuit of blaming the other party in order to prove liability and win. But in Connecticut, in a negligence lawsuit, does all of the blame, or liability, need to rest with the other party in order for you to win? The answer is no. There is something called comparative negligence which comes into play.
The rule is that if you are the one bringing the negligence lawsuit, you can still win as long as you are 50% at fault, or less. It’s just that your money damages award will be reduced by your own percentage of blame. And if you have more than 50% of the blame, then you get nothing.
First, most people are not even aware of this comparative negligence rule. Second, once you think about it, it makes a great deal of sense.
In the real world, it is rare for all of the blame to be with one party, or all of the blame to be with the other party. Frequently, blame is shared. Of course, the blame for something could be 50/50 or 60/40 or 40/60 or 70/30 or 30/70 or 80/20 or 20/80 …. The bottom line is that it can vary tremendously. It can be mostly one party and only slightly the other, or it can be even. But the point is, it is not always 100% on one party or the other.
So it makes sense that you can still win your negligence lawsuit even if you share part of the blame, just as long as you are not more than 50% to blame. And it also makes sense that your money damages should be reduced by your percentage of negligence.
Here are some common examples.
1. You are driving straight through an intersection with a green light. Perhaps you are driving a little faster than you should. An oncoming driver turns left in the intersection right in front of you, and the two of you crash. Obviously, the oncoming driver who turned left is negligent and caused this accident by failing to yield the right of way and turning left in front of an oncoming vehicle. But then again, maybe if you weren’t going so fast, you could have avoided. This is an example where there is possible comparative negligence. Maybe it is 90% on the other driver and 10% on you. Or it could be 80/20.
But in the same instance, if you were instead driving absurdly fast, then maybe it is 60/40, or even 50/50.
Or, if it was at night and your headlights were turned off, then it could be the other way around, with you being more than 50% to blame and recovering nothing.
Essentially, it is very fact specific and subject to debate. But overall, just remember, you can share some of the blame and still successfully recover money damages for your injuries.
2. Another context is when you fall on the water on the supermarket floor, or when you fall on an icy walkway. How the negligence is apportioned can depend tremendously on the facts surrounding the incident. How long was the water on the store floor? How long had it been since the floor was last inspected. Were there yellow signs or cones? How big an area was covered by the water? If outside on an icy walkway, had it been cleared of snow and ice, leaving only a few splotches, or was the clean-up effort clearly unreasonable? Was there sand and/or salt applied?
On the other hand, for the person who fell, is there something to show they were negligent? Merely falling is not indicative of negligence, but were they doing something to make oneself inattentive? Were they not looking? Were they walking while texting? Was footwear inappropriate?
Again, these are all fact specific.
What should be remembered is that when you are injured, it is not always “all your fault” or all the fault of the other party. It can be a mix. As long as you are 50% negligent or less, you may still be awarded money damages as compensation. The best thing you can do when something happens is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to assess this.