Personal injury: How does the comparative negligence rule work?

| Nov 20, 2020 | Personal Injury

When someone is injured in a Delaware car accident caused by another party’s negligence, the injured person likely has grounds to pursue financial relief in a civil court. All drivers must exercise reasonable care while driving. If a driver breaches that duty and causes an accident, injured victims could hold the negligent driver responsible for damages.

However, negligence laws vary from state to state and understanding them is essential before filing a personal injury lawsuit. Most states, including Delaware, follow the comparative negligence rule when both parties negligently contributed to the accident.

This rule has two approaches:

  • Pure comparative negligence: The judge or the jury determines the percentage of negligence by each party — plaintiff and defendant. Then the total percentage value of the plaintiff’s damages is reduced by his or her percentage of fault, with the resulting balance awarded to the plaintiff.
  • Modified comparative negligence: This version of the rule sets a bar of either 50% or 51% when considering a plaintiff’s claim. If the plaintiff was responsible for negligence equal to or exceeding the bar, he or she will not be awarded any damage recovery at all.

Delaware’s modified comparative negligence bar is 50%, meaning that only those responsible for less than 50% of the fault will be eligible to recover damages. Similarly, in states with a 51% bar, plaintiffs who contributed 50% or less negligence may be entitled to recover damages.

Damages typically documented for adjudication by the court include financial losses like medical expenses and lost wages, both in the immediate aftermath of the accident and injury-related losses in the future. Furthermore, the plaintiff may include emotional or non-economic damages like pain and suffering, loss of life-enjoyment and more in the list of documented damages.