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Pennsylvania Follows Modified Comparative Negligence

February 27, 2018

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

The amount a party can recover in a civil suit depends on what type of negligence system the state follows. Throughout the country, there are four established systems used to assess damage awards: pure contributory negligence, pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence – 51 percent bar rule, and modified comparative negligence – 50 percent bar rule. Understanding which system each state follows and how it applies to recovering damages is a complex legal matter that van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim are adept at handling. Our experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyers will make sure you receive proper damages for your injuries.

Percentage of Fault

Each party is assigned a percentage of fault for the accident by the court or jury in a negligence claim. The percentage of fault of each party is determined by looking at the actions or failure to act of each party and using that evidence to assign each party a percentage of negligence.

Pure Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence was the common legal defense in historical tort actions. Under this doctrine, an injured party can only recover damages if he did not contribute to the accident in any aspect. Most states have evolved from this strict standard of pure contributory negligence to one of the comparative negligence systems.

Pure Comparative Negligence

Under comparative negligence, an injured party can recover some of his damages even if he is partially at fault in causing the accident. In a pure comparative negligence system, an injured person may recoup damages even if he was 99 percent at fault. But the damages the injured party will receive is diminished by his portion of fault. For example, since the plaintiff is 99 percent at fault, and the defendant is 1 percent at fault then the defendant is only required to pay 1 percent of the plaintiff’s total damages. If the plaintiff’s total damages in this example are $5,000 then the defendant is only required to pay the plaintiff $50 (or one percent) in damages.

Modified Comparative Negligence – 51 Percent Rule

A modified comparative negligence – 51 percent rule is followed in Pennsylvania. A plaintiff’s contributory negligence does not bar the plaintiff from recovering damages as long as the plaintiff’s negligence was not greater than that of the defendant. Under the 51 percent comparative negligence rule, the plaintiff can recover damages from the defendant only if his percentage of fault is less than 51 percent. If the plaintiff is more than 50 percent at fault, he will be barred from recovering compensation damages from the defendant.

For example, if two cars are involved in an accident and the plaintiff is 75% at fault and the defendant is 25% at fault, the plaintiff would not succeed in a legal claim because his percentage of fault is greater than the defendant. This means if you were injured during an accident and you were partially at fault for the accident, generally, you can still seek compensation for your damages. However, if the majority of the collision was due to your own fault, then you cannot recover damages.

The plaintiff’s degree of fault also affects the amount of compensation he is able to recover. If the plaintiff is found to hold 40 percent of the fault, he is only permitted to claim 60 percent of the settlement. This means that a plaintiff’s negligence will lessen his recovery, but not fully bar it, as long as his negligence is less than that of the defendant.

Modified Comparative Negligence – 50 Percent Rule

The principles for states following a modified comparative fault – 50 percent rule are basically the same as the 51 percent rule. Except, under the 50 percent rule an injured party will recover only if his fault in causing the accident is 49 percent or less.

Meet with a Personal Injury Negligence Lawyer

Even if you believe you are at fault for an accident or are just unsure, it is still important to meet with an attorney. A lawyer can help you determine if you have a viable personal injury claim and come up with your percentage of fault. Let van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim evaluate your claim and give you a clear understanding of your legal options. A Philadelphia personal injury lawyer will make sure that all avenues of recovery are assessed. Remember, being partially at fault does not mean you cannot recover for your injuries. Schedule a free initial consultation in our downtown offices to discuss your specific case with a qualified Philadelphia lawyer.



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