Comparative negligence

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In the United States, comparative negligence is a system of apportioning recovery for a tort based on a comparison of the plaintiff's negligence with the defendant's. It contrasts with the doctrine of contributory negligence, which disallows recovery by a plaintiff whose actions in some way, however small, contributed to the tort.

[edit] Explanation

For example, plaintiff (P) and defendant (D) are driving in separate cars on a street. P is going five miles per hour over the speed limit and attempts to overtake D. D suddenly swerves into P's lane without checking to ensure the lane is clear. D hits P's car and causes $1,000 in damage. P sues D for the damage to his car.

At the conclusion of the trial, a jury finds that P is 40% responsible for the accident due to his speeding, and D is 60% responsible for the accident due to his failure to check traffic before changing lanes. Thus, P is awarded 60% of the damages he sustained, or $600. The other $400 in repairs P must pay on his own due to his actions.

Prior to the late 1960s, however, only a few states had adopted this system. When comparative negligence was adopted, three main versions were used. The first was called "pure" comparative negligence. A plaintiff who was, say, 90% to blame for an accident could recover 10% of his losses. (Of course, the defendant in such a case could recover 90% of his losses from the plaintiff.)

The second and third versions are lumped together in what is called "modified" comparative negligence. One variant allow plaintiffs to recover only if the plaintiff's negligence is "not greater than" the defendant's (viz., the plaintiff's negligence must be less than 51% of the defendant's).

The other variant allows plaintiff's to recover only if the plaintiff's negligence is "not as great as" the defendant's (viz., the plaintiff's negligence must be less than 50% that of the defendant's).

[edit] Contributory negligence doctrine

Some states, though, still use the contributory negligence doctrine when evaluating negligence in a tort. Alabama, for instance, has not adopted this. In Williams v. Delta Int'l Machinery Corp., (619 So.2d 1330, Ala. 1993), the court said: "(after) exhaustive study and these lengthy deliberations, the majority of this Court, for various reasons, has decided that we should not abandon the doctrine of contributory negligence, which has been the law in Alabama for approximately 162 years." Other states that still use contributory negligence are: Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. The District of Columbia also uses contributory negligence.

[edit] External links

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