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Contributory negligence and personal injury lawsuits

Very few car accidents are clear cut when it comes to determining fault. One individual may have been speeding slightly when he is struck by another driver who ran a stop sign. Should this disallow the first driver from recovering compensation? This is a debate that, at one time or another, has played out in every state, and the laws addressing it can vary from state-to-state.

In Massachusetts, those who are found to be contributorily negligent, meaning they are partially at fault for the accident, will only be disallowed from recovering compensation if they are found to be more liable than the person against whom they have filed a lawsuit. Therefore, if a victim is found to be 51 percent at fault for causing an accident, then that person will not be able to recover compensation for damages from the other driver who was 49 percent at fault.

On the other hand, however, this means that even those who have a significant amount of fault can still pursue a personal injury lawsuit. In fact, violation of the law itself cannot bar an individual from recovering on a claim. It can, however, be used as evidence of negligence. But, succeeding on one of these claims, may mean that the corresponding financial award will be diminished in accordance to fault allocated. It could also change the way that a victim handles settlement negotiations.

Deciding whether or not to take legal action against another person when one is partially at fault can be difficult. It can be hard to assess whether a claim has a chance of succeeding and how fault will affect the potential recovery. For this reason, those who have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another may want to get more information about their legal options in order to help them better evaluate their situation.

Source: Massachusetts Legislature, "Chapter 231 Section 85," accessed on Feb. 26, 2016

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