All personal injury cases, including motor vehicle accident lawsuits, require fault determination.
After suffering significant damages in a car accident, the victim may sue the at-fault driver for compensation for medical bills, lost income, and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. However, one party is not always 100% responsible for the accident.
Comparative negligence rule
In cases that involve shared fault, most states apply the comparative negligence rule. Comparative negligence states that the plaintiff is still eligible for compensation even if they are partially at fault for the accident and resulting injuries. However, the court will deduct the plaintiff’s percentage of fault from the amount awarded for damages.
Two types of the comparative negligence rule
There are two types of the comparative negligence rule:
- Modified comparative negligence states that, in order to receive compensation, the plaintiff’s portion of fault cannot exceed the defendant’s portion of fault. Some states set the threshold at 50%, and others set it at 51%.
- Pure comparative negligence states that the plaintiff can receive compensation even if their portion of fault is more than the defendant’s.
Massachusetts abides by the modified comparative negligence rule. For example, if the court determines that the defendant is only 20% at fault, that means that the plaintiff can only receive 20% of the awarded compensation. The court deducts the 80% that reflects the plaintiff’s 80% of fault.
Most personal injury cases settle outside of the courtroom during the negotiation process. However, the comparative negligence rule still applies in a less official capacity if both parties share fault.