How does comparative negligence affect Massachusetts’ victims?

Unfortunately, many Massachusetts residents will find themselves in a car accident at some point in their lives. When this happens, their first reaction must be to determine if they, their passengers, and other parties are OK. After that, they might wonder who was at fault. Determining fault is an important step in the quest to recover compensation for one’s damages. Yet, there may be some confusion as to how fault is calculated and how it affects a victim’s chances of recovery.

The first step in determining fault is to ask whether an individual breached a duty of care owed to another. All persons have a duty to others to act reasonably so as to prevent harm. If this duty is breached and compensable injuries result, then a victim can typically recover compensation for those damages. But what if the victim himself or herself was negligent? Does this bar him or her from recovery?

Not in Massachusetts. There are two types of negligence that can occur on a victim’s behalf: contributory and comparative. Under a pure contributory negligence standard, a victim can be barred from recovering if he or she is found to be at fault even in the amount of 1 percent. Fortunately, Massachusetts does not follow this standard, instead opting for a modified comparative negligence law. Under modified comparative negligence, a victim’s recovery is reduced by the amount that he or she was at fault. Therefore, if a victim is awarded $100,000, but is found to be 10 percent at fault, he or she will be able to recover $90,000. However, it is important to note that under this model of negligence, a victim who is more than 50 percent at fault may be barred from recovering compensation.

Being injured in a car accident can create a time of pain and stress. When this happens, it may be best to speak with a local professional about the legalities of the case and to determine whether filing a lawsuit against a negligent driver is appropriate.

Source: FindLaw, “Contributory and Comparative Negligence,” accessed on July 26, 2014


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