Can I Still Sue Even If I’m Partially at Fault for My Injury?

The right to file a personal injury lawsuit when you are partially at fault for your own injury varies from one jurisdiction to another. A handful of states prohibit an injury victim from seeking compensation from another party if they played any role in causing the accident. Other states will allow a plaintiff to sue another party for an injury even when they are primarily at fault. Pennsylvania takes a compromise approach known as modified comparative negligence.

Understanding this legal standard is critical in many injury cases. Liability is not always clear, and in many cases demonstrating that a plaintiff was only partially at fault is as important as proving the defendant played a role in causing the accident. A Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer at Chaffin Luhana can assist you in showing a jury you played no role in causing your injuries.

Modified comparative negligence

The standard of modified comparative negligence allows a plaintiff to pursue monetary compensation for their injuries even when they are partially responsible for the accident. That said, a plaintiff may only recover compensation if they are not primarily at fault. This is informally known as the “51 Percent” rule. If a plaintiff is 51 percent or more responsible for their own injuries, they are barred from pursuing damages through a lawsuit. However, if they are 50 percent at fault or less, a plaintiff may pursue these damages.

There are other ramifications for a plaintiff if their responsibility is less than 51 percent. While state law allows a plaintiff to pursue compensation in this situation, it limits the maximum amount of compensation available in their case. In the modified comparative negligence standard, the jury must not only determine which party is at fault but also assign the degree of responsibility. If the plaintiff is less than 51 percent responsible, the jury must then reduce their total damage award by the degree of their liability.

Examples of shared fault

The concept of modified comparative negligence is best understood through examples. Consider the following example.

Two drivers are approaching each other on a narrow, curved road. Driver A is speeding, while Driver B has crossed over the centerline. The two vehicles collide, and Driver A has suffered severe injuries. Whether or not Driver A is entitled to compensation depends on whether the jury determines if their degree of liability is below 51 percent.

The jury will then hear arguments from both sides during the trial. While Driver B was negligent by crossing over the centerline, Driver A could also be at fault due to traveling at an unsafe speed. After deliberation, the jury determines Driver A has received a total of $100,000 worth of damages in the crash. They also determine that Driver A was 25 percent at fault, and Driver B was 75 percent at fault. This requires the jury to reduce their award of damages by 25 percent. The end result is an award of $75,000 to Driver A.

How an attorney could help

In many injury claims, the defendant will admit to some degree of responsibility for causing an accident. That does not mean that compensation is ever guaranteed. In many cases, a defendant could allege that while they played a role, the plaintiff was ultimately the primary cause of the accident.

At Chaffin Luhana, we have extensive experience taking on cases with disputed liability. Our thorough approach to these claims allows us to investigate every aspect of an accident and determine its causes. If you have questions about your claim, Chaffin Luhana has the answers. Schedule a free consultation right away.