Comparative Negligence

What is 'Comparative Negligence'

Comparative negligence is a principle of tort law that applies to casualty insurance in certain states. Comparative negligence states that when an accident occurs, the fault and or negligence of each party involved is based upon their respective contributions to the accident. This allows insurers to assign blame and pay claims accordingly.

BREAKING DOWN 'Comparative Negligence'

Comparative negligence is most commonly used to assign blame in auto accidents. If two drivers both break the same traffic laws in an accident, then both may be denied their claims. Many carriers assign blame between drivers on a percentage basis, such as 70/30.

If two parties are involved in a car accident, the insurers use comparative negligence to assign fault. Determining fault in an accident is a critical aspect of insurance. Insurance companies litigate to ensure that they are only liable for damages caused by their insured client. In addition, defense lawyers will attempt to limit responsibility to the smallest extent possible. Reviewing actions that led to an accident, insurers and the courts determine how to assign fault. That process is the essence of comparative negligence. The determination of fault will ultimately lead to deciding how much the insurer must pay.

The damages are awarded proportionally based on the degrees of determined negligence. The party who is found less responsible still has a percentage of the blame assigned to them. The percentage of negligence attached to the less responsible party is called contributory negligence. In the situation of a lawsuit resulting from a car accident the contributory negligence would be the plaintiff's failure to exercise reasonable care for their safety. In this relatively common situation, defendants use contributory negligence as a defense.

Comparative Negligence in the Context of Tort Law

Tort law itself covers most civil lawsuits. Almost every claim that arises in civil court, with the exception of contractual disputes, falls under tort law. The concept of this area of law is to redress a wrong done to a person and provide relief from the wrongful acts of others, usually by awarding monetary damages as compensation.

Comparative negligence is a kind of negligent tort. The term negligent torts encompasses harm done to people generally through the failure of another to exercise a certain level of care, sometimes defined as a reasonable standard of care. Accidents are a standard example of negligent torts.

Negligent torts represent one of three categories of tort law that are generally used to understand the system. The other two are intentional torts and liability torts. Intentional torts refers to harms done to people intentionally by the willful misconduct of another, such as assault, fraud and theft. Unlike negligence and intentional torts, strict liability torts focuses on the act itself as opposed to the culpability of the person doing the harm.