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Contributory Versus Comparative Negligence

Contributory Versus Comparative Negligence

People are injured on a daily basis. In some instances, the accident is truly innocent, and no one is at fault. In other cases, a person’s Negligence or error contributes to an accident that causes injury or property damage. When determining fault, contributory or comparative negligence can come into play.

Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim

Negligence, in simple terms, means that someone did something that created a risk of harm to someone else. If a person is negligent, and their negligence results in someone’s injury, they can be held liable for damages. In order for a victim to be successful in court, they must prove several elements:

  1. The at-fault party had a duty toward the plaintiff to keep them safe (reasonable care)
  2. The at-fault party (defendant) did not act in a reasonable way or breached the duty of care
  3. The breach of duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries
  4. The injuries would have been foreseen by a reasonable person
  5. The plaintiff suffered injuries for which they may claim damages

Contributory Negligence

When Contributory Negligence is a factor in a personal injury case, it means that the plaintiff conducted themselves in a way that “contributed” to their injury. A contributory negligence claim is typically used in a counterclaim as a means of defense. If the defendant can prove that a victim contributed to their own injury, even in a tiny way, the victim may be barred from recovering damages.

For example: A driver strikes a pedestrian in the roadway and the pedestrian sues for damages. The driver is able to prove that the pedestrian was outside of a marked crosswalk and darted out between parked vehicles. The judge may find that it was the victim who was at fault for their own injuries, using the contributory negligence rule.

Comparative Negligence

This type of negligence is used in most states, including California. In this type of negligence, each party’s actions are taken into account. Unlike true contributory negligence, having some part to play in their own injury does not negate a victim from recovering damages, but reduces their damages by the percent they are deemed to have been negligent. There are two types of comparative negligence:

  1. Pure: A victim’s award is totaled and then reduced. For example, if a person is awarded $100,000 and the judge finds that they were 30 percent responsible for their injury, the award will be reduced to $70,000.
  2. Modified: If a person is found to be 50 percent or more responsible for their injuries, they will not recover damages.

If you have been injured in San Luis Obispo, reach out to our team of personal injury attorneys today. We will review the details of your case and advise you of your legal options. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages and more. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation.

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Contributory Versus Comparative Negligence


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