If you were partially at fault for an accident that left you injured, your family can still be entitled to damages from the others who were responsible also. Some states don’t allow you to collect damages if your negligence substantially contributed to the accident. It is important to know the rules that apply in your state.
Modified Comparative Negligence
The state of Connecticut uses what is called “modified comparative negligence.” This doctrine is codified in C.G.S. § 52-572h(b), which states:
“In causes of action based on negligence, contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in an action by any person or the person’s legal representative to recover damages resulting from personal injury…if the negligence was not greater than the combined negligence of the person or persons against whom recovery is sought including settled or released persons under subsection (n) of this section. The economic or noneconomic damages allowed shall be diminished in the proportion of the percentage of negligence attributable to the person recovering which percentage shall be determined pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.” (Lexis 2014)
Although it is wordy, this statute is fairly simple. It means that you cannot bring a personal injury claim in Connecticut if the injured party was more negligent than all of the other defendants combined. If you were not more negligent than all of the defendants, your family can recover damages in the appropriate amount. The amount of damages you are entitled to is lowered based on the percentage that you were negligent. In sum, Connecticut law compares your negligence – or their degree of fault – to the negligence of others involved in the accident.
The 51% Rule
This type of modified comparative negligence approach, which is used in Connecticut and other states, is often referred to as the “51% rule” because a plaintiff can’t recover damages once it is found that they were 51% at fault in causing the accident.
The 50% Rule
Some states that use modified comparative fault follow the “50% rule” instead – meaning that you can only recover damages if you are 49% or less at fault for the accident.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Other states follow what is called a “pure comparative negligence” system. Under this system, the judge or jury gives a percentage of fault to each party involved and awards damages according to this percentage. In a state that uses pure comparative negligence, you can receive damages even if you were 99% at fault in causing the injury.
Pure Contributory Negligence System
Contrarily, a small number of states still use what is called a “pure contributory negligence system.” Under this system, you can only recover if you didn’t contribute to the accident in any way. This approach is much harsher than the three comparative negligence approaches.