When you've been injured due to the negligence of another driver, a personal injury lawsuit is sometimes the only way to get the compensation you deserve. But their level of legal liability and what you can receive in damages varies wildly in different parts of the country. Why? Here's what any victim needs to know.
Why Do Negligence Laws Vary?
Each state has the right to determine how it will handle negligence claims in civil court. State law and prior judgments in that state set the basis for future judgments. This makes up what is known as a legal doctrine for that state.
With regards to liability and damages, these doctrines tend to fall into four categories based on a combination of two factors.
What Is the First Main Factor?
The broadest categorization of negligence doctrines is either contributory negligence versus comparative negligence.
Contributory negligence states that a victim may not sue another party for negligence if the victim contributed in any way to their own accident. This is a harsh approach to negligence, and only a handful of states (and the District of Columbia) follow this doctrine.
Comparative negligence laws allow for the liability for an accident to be shared among two or more parties. So if a jury finds that the victim was speeding when they were hit by a drunk driver, they may assign 25% of fault to the victim and 75% to the drunk driver.
What Is the Second Main Factor?
More variety then occurs among states due to how they apply these two factors. Each can be applied in a pure form or a modified form.
Pure contributory negligence, for instance, disqualifies a victim from any compensation if they contributed to their accident. Modified contributory negligence, on the other hand, allows lawsuits for victims who hold up to a percentage of liability. It may also reduce how much they can receive.
Modified comparative negligence, similarly, limits a victim's ability to sue and/or recover damages based on their percentage of fault. This limitation usually kicks in at either 50% liability (of the victim) or 51%. Pure comparative negligence doesn't limit litigation based on fault.
Where Can You Learn More?
Can you move forward with your car accident lawsuit? Start finding out by learning more about your state's approach to negligence. Meet with a qualified personal injury lawyer today.
For more information, contact a car accident lawyer near you.
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