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Car Accidents & Comparative Negligence


In some accidents, it is fairly easy to determine who is at fault – say, when someone runs a red light or blows through a stop sign, for instance. Others, such as when both parties are injured, are not so easy to figure out.

Determining who is at fault is important for a multitude of reasons, but one of the most significant is so that the insurance agency can effectively reward damages. Naturally, the party responsible for the accident shouldn't receive compensation for their injuries they caused, so the more clearly you prove liability, the more fairly damages are awarded.

What Does Comparative Negligence Have to Do with Proving Fault?

Most people have never heard of the term 'comparative negligence' until they get into an accident. At that point, it can be overwhelming to realize how much this will impact the outcome of the accident.

Comparative negligence is the process of dividing fault between both parties. Again, when it's difficult to say exactly who is at fault, it may be that both parties contributed some level of negligence. States throughout the country have different ways of assigning comparative fault.

The three most common comparative negligence theories are:

  • Pure contributory negligence
  • Pure comparative fault
  • Modified comparative fault

Massachusetts follows the theory of modified comparative fault, as do 32 other states. Under this category, there are two 'rules': the 50 perfect Bar Rule and the 51 percent Bar Rule. Massachusetts applies the latter.

If the injured party is 51% or more at fault, they cannot recover any damages at all. But if the injured party is 50% or less at fault, they are able to recover compensation. The higher the at-fault percentage, the less the amount of compensation recovered in the end.

If you or a loved one was recently involved in an accident and are unsure if you're able to recover damages, contact our Quincy personal injury attorney. We have successfully evaluated hundreds of car accident cases and been able to receive significant amounts of compensation. Call us today!