Navigating the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident can be complicated. To make things even more complex, your total financial compensation after an accident is impacted by comparative negligence laws in your state.
What Is A Comparative Negligence Law?
Comparative negligence laws go into effect after an accident. Their purpose is to help determine the level of fault for each party, depending on their respective roles in the accident. Afterwards, insurers determine levels of blame, and pay insurance claims as needed.
These laws are especially important after car accidents, since assigning blame is crucial to obtaining the maximum compensation.
Types of Comparative Negligence Laws
Every state in the US falls into one of four categories of comparative negligence laws:
- Pure Comparative: this is the most liberal type of comparative negligence law. Under pure comparative negligence laws, a driver is allowed to file suit regardless of their fault in the accident, but their financial compensation is reduced by their percentage of involvement in the accident. For example, if you are 80% at fault for an accident, you can only recover 20% of the estimated damages. States like Missouri utilize this form of comparative negligence laws, and car accident attorneys like Douglas Haun Heidemann know just how to operate under these laws.
- Modified Comparative: if your accident takes place in a state that utilizes modified comparative negligence rules, you are allowed to seek damages for an accident as long as your personal level of fault falls below a certain percentage. The exact benchmark varies from state to state, check out a complete list of modified comparative state’ policies to find out information about your state.
- Contributory: If you live in a state where contributory laws are used, that means if you are at any percentage of fault you are unable to file charges. Even 1%. This type of comparative negligence law is often seen as the most prohibitory and strict for drivers, consequently only Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia follow this law.
- Slight-gross Negligence Comparative: This type of law means that Plaintiffs can only recover damages if they displayed “slight” negligence and the other party displayed “gross” negligence. Meaning that the plaintiff was found to be at very little to no fault. Only South Dakota follows a Slight-Gross Negligence Comparative law.
Why It Impacts Your Total Financial Recovery
Essentially, the comparative negligence laws that your state abides by dictates if – and how much – of a case you have as plaintiff. For example, an accident in which you are found 10% at fault for means you could collect 90% of the damages in Missouri (under Pure Comparative Negligence), but absolutely no damages in Texas (under Contributory law). This makes a massive difference in how you financially recover from a life altering accident.
Hiring an experienced accident lawyer in the state where the accident took place is imperative. Your attorney should be well versed in the types of comparative negligence law, and have a great track record with favorable case outcomes.