Contributory Negligence v. Comparative Negligence

Not all motor vehicle crashes are clear cut and easy to determine liability. Some crashes tend to be more complicated. The reason is that a number of different factors can cause a collision to happen. Determining who is at fault in a car crash can be a difficult process. The first step is to prove the other party was negligent. However, even if you are successful in doing so, the other driver can still avoid partial or full liability by claiming a viable defense under shared fault rules like contributory or comparative negligence.

Comparative Negligence is a Partial Defense

LawUnder the comparative negligence defense, an individual is allowed to allocate fault between the different parties involved in the collision. Depending on the exact version adopted by your state, the defendant can raise a partial defense claiming that he or she was only partially at fault for the accident. In other words, the defendant is also claiming that you, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, was also partially at fault for the crash.

Some states, including California, has adopted a pure comparative negligence standard. Under this law, accident victims can recover some compensation for their injuries regardless of how negligent they were – even if their degree of fault is higher than the defendant’s. 

Contributory Negligence Defined

If you live in one of the few states that follow a contributory negligence system (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.) and are injured in a car crash, you may be in for a surprise – and not the good kind – if you are found to have contributed to the accident.

Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, you will be barred compensation if the other party can prove that you acted negligently and contributed to the crash in any way. This is a harsh doctrine because you will be denied recovery even if your degree of fault is slight. This is one of the reasons why only a small number of states still follow this rule.

Common Examples Amounting to Comparative or Contributory Negligence

There are different ways a defendant can claim that you were also negligent in having caused the accident. Some common examples of plaintiff conduct that might amount to negligence in a car crash include:

  • Speeding
  • Riding with a driver that you know is drunk, reckless or sleepy
  • Riding in a car that you know is defective
  • Interfering with the driver’s operation of the car
  • Failing to follow traffic signals

Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney

If you or a loved has been injured in a car accident, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as you may be entitled to compensation. The Los Angeles car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates advocate for their clients’ full financial recovery through hard work and an aggressive approach. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys, please call 949-727-9300.

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