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Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania Personal Injury Cases

Posted on in Car Accidents

Pittsburgh personal injury attorneyWhen a person files a lawsuit in the wake of a car accident, slip-and-fall, or other personal injury matter, they hope to recover enough in the way of damages to address the losses they have suffered. These losses generally include expenses related to physical injuries, as well as lost wages, property damage, and more. What many victims do not realize, however, is that their compensation may be reduced, as it is fairly common for an injured party to share in the liability for the accident. The legal doctrine under which a personal injury can be reduced for this reason is called “comparative negligence.”

Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence

One of the first questions in any personal injury matter is “Who was at fault for the accident?” Under the principles of common law, historically, if the injured party played any part in causing the accident, he or she was barred from seeking compensation from anyone else. The thought process was that a person has the duty to reasonably protect themselves from injury, so failing in that duty was seen as grounds to bar recovery.

Over time, U.S. states began to shy away from this principle, which is called “pure contributory negligence.” Lawmakers realized that it was unfair to deny recovery in a case where, for example, the injured party was only 10 percent responsible for the accident. While four states and the District of Columbia still maintain pure contributory negligence laws, all of the other states—including Pennsylvania—have adopted comparative fault standards. There several different versions of comparative fault standards, but the most common allow a plaintiff to recover damages as long as he or she is not more than 50 percent responsible for the accident.  

Understanding PA Law

In Pennsylvania, the statute that addresses comparative negligence does not make reference to a particular percentage. Instead, it says that a victim can collect compensation from a defendant as long as the victim’s blame for the accident is not more than the defendant’s blame. While this suggests a 50 percent limit, it could also apply to cases where more than two parties are at fault, which can become infinitely more complex.

Reducing Payouts

It is important to understand that comparative negligence allows an injured victim to collect compensation, but it also affects how much he or she can collect. Pennsylvania law provides any damages awarded must be reduced “in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the plaintiff.” This means that if a victim suffered $100,000 in damages but was 30 percent responsible for the accident, he or she would only be entitled to collect $70,000—a reduction of 30 percent.

Seek Qualified Help

If you have been injured in a car accident or any other type of accident for which you are being partially blamed, contact an experienced Allegheny County personal injury attorney for help. Call 412-943-0007 for a free consultation at Colianni Law Offices, LLC today.  

 

Sources:

http://nationalparalegal.edu/public_documents/courseware_asp_files/torts/defNegSpecDut/contributoryNegligence.asp

https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/42/00.071.002.000..HTM

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