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What is the Difference Between Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence?

 If you or someone you love has been injured and you believe that another person or entity is at least partially to blame, then you may be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for the damages that you’ve suffered. There are a lot of things to take into consideration when trying to make this decision, and one of the sticking points that many people struggle with is the suspicion that they may have been partially to blame for their own injury. This is a legitimate concern: just as manufacturers, or property owners, or other motorists with whom we share the roads have a responsibility to act with care, so too do we –  You can’t walk blithely past twenty signs warning about a giant pit that’s 50 feet ahead of you and then hold the property owner responsible when you end up falling into a hole. In most cases our own portion of blame in our injuries is not as overt as this example, and the Connecticut legal system has a system for parsing accountability appropriately by establishing comparative negligence. Let’s take a look at the difference between contributory negligence and comparative negligence.

Though comparative negligence is the standard throughout most states in the United States, this was not always the case. At one time the legal doctrine that was used in assessing negligence was called contributory negligence. Under this theory (which some states still use), if the person who was injured had any level of responsibility whatsoever for their own injury, they were not able to recover any damages from the other parties involved – even if their contribution was as little as one percent. By contrast, under the theory of comparative negligence when a person has a hand in their own injury, the judge or jury decides what percentage of the incident was their own fault. In states where comparative negligence is measured as “pure”, then no matter what percentage a defendant is deemed to be at fault, they can collect full damages from the defendant. In states where comparative negligence is measured as “modified” – which is the case in Connecticut –  as long as the individual’s responsibility for their own injury is deemed to be less than 50 or 51 percent they are able to collect the percentage of damages from the defendant (or defendants) that the jury decides the defendant what responsible for.

Because of the doctrine of comparative negligence, even if you feel that you are partially to blame for what has happened to you, it may be worthwhile for you to pursue a legal claim against those whose negligence contributed to your injury. At Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers, we will be happy to sit down and listen to what happened, helping you to determine what your next best steps will be. Call us today to set up a free consultation.