What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence can be a source of confusion for individuals who have suffered injuries in accidents. Some of that confusion might stem from the fact that different states treat it in different ways.

The most important thing that Pennsylvania accident victims should understand is that in our state– you can likely recover at least a portion of your damages– even if you were partially at fault.

This summary will help you to understand if comparative negligence will keep you from recovering your damages in a Pennsylvania accident lawsuit. If you have additional questions, call Chaffin Luhana to speak with a Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer for a detailed analysis of how comparative negligence might affect a damages award in your case.

What is the Pennsylvania Law on Comparative Negligence?

Section 7012 of Pennsylvania General Assembly Statutes allows an accident victim to recover damages as long as the victim was less negligent than the party who caused it.

This means that in a lawsuit, even if a jury assigns 49% of the blame for an accident to the victim, they can still recover damages from the party that bears 51% of the blame. However, if the victim were 50% or more to blame for the accident, there would be no damages recovery.

Further, the victim’s damages would be reduced in proportion to their responsibility. For example, if a victim is determined to be 20% responsible and their damages are $1 million, then it would be reduced by 20%, and the victim would recover $800,000.

How Does Pennsylvania’s Comparative Negligence Law Differ from the Other States?

Different states apply comparative and contributory negligence laws along a continuum. At one end, a small number of states apply a pure comparative negligence standard. An accident victim cannot recover any damages if they are even 1% responsible. Other states apply a pure comparative fault rule that reduces a victim’s compensation in proportion to their responsibility for the accident– regardless of the victim’s percentage of fault.

Pennsylvania and several other states apply a modified comparative negligence standard that cuts off a victim’s ability to recover damages if they are 50% or more responsible. At the other end of the continuum, only one state applies a slight/gross negligence standard.

This considers the parties’ relative responsibility for the accident only if the victim’s negligence is slight, and the defendant’s negligence is gross.

How Do Courts Determine Relative Blame in an Accident Case?

Liability is a function of the specific facts of the case. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney will examine and present them to argue the most favorable results for their client.  Those facts can be established by:

  • police reports that describe the accident;
  • statements from witnesses who observed it;
  • forensic evidence from the accident site, including photographs and expert analyses of vehicles or the surrounding premises;
  • video from surveillance cameras;
  • cell phone records which show that a negligent party was on a phone conversation or was texting when the accident occurred.

How is Liability Determined When Multiple Parties are in an Accident?

Under Pennsylvania’s Fair Share Act, if two or more defendants are responsible for another party’s injuries, then each defendant will be liable for damages in proportion to their relative liability.

For example, if two drivers caused an accident that injured the driver of a third vehicle and those two drivers were 55% and 45% responsible for the accident, the damages liability of those two drivers will be limited, respectively– to 55% and 45%. If, however, one of those drivers is 60% responsible, that driver may be liable for the total amount.

Call Chaffin Luhana to Recover the Damages You Deserve in an Accident Case

A victim’s ability to recover the largest percentage of their damages in a Pennsylvania accident case may depend on the skills and abilities of the law firm who represents the accident victim. Our attorneys have recovered more than $1 billion in damages for their clients in accident lawsuits. Our success on behalf of our clients speaks for itself.

Contact us after you suffer injuries in an accident– before a negligent party or their insurance company claims that you were partly at fault. We will analyze the facts of your case and will use them to the fullest extent possible– to assign blame for your injuries on the party that is most responsible for causing them.