Hello Dear Reader,

Today I’d like to dive into a topic that might sound a bit legalistic but trust me, it’s crucial for anyone who’s ever wondered about personal injury claims. Today, we’re going to discuss “comparative negligence” – a term that can make all the difference when it comes to seeking compensation for an injury.  You should know that in five jurisdictions, including Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., the “rule” of law is called “contributory negligence” – which means, in effect, that if you contribute in any way to the happening of an accident, you cannot recover damages against the other party (even if they were 99% at fault!).

The determination of which law applies is solely based on where the accident happened.

In most states then, the law is “comparative negligence”– which is much better for injured people.

What Exactly is Comparative Negligence?

Imagine this scenario:

You’re crossing the street at a pedestrian crosswalk, obeying all the rules, when suddenly a cyclist zips by and crashes into you.


It’s clear the cyclist is at fault, right? Well, not always.

This is where “comparative negligence” comes into play.

Comparative negligence is a legal concept that weighs the percentage of fault each party holds in an incident resulting in an injury. In other words, it’s like divvying up responsibility for what happened. So, even if someone else’s actions caused the mishap, your own actions (if any) might still be considered in deciding who’s liable and how much compensation you’re entitled to.

How Does It Work?

Let’s stick with our cyclist example. If it’s found that you were looking down at your phone while crossing, and that contributed to the incident, you might be deemed partially responsible. Now, let’s say you’re awarded $10,000 in damages, but you are found 20% at fault due to the distraction. In this scenario, you’d still receive compensation, but it would be reduced by 20%, leaving you with $8,000.

Types of Comparative Negligence:

  1. Pure Comparative Negligence: In some states, even if you’re found 99% at fault, you can still recover 1% of the damages. It’s a “no matter how much you’re to blame, you can still get something” kind of deal.
  2. Modified Comparative Negligence (The 50% Rule): Many states follow this rule. You can only recover if you’re 50% or less at fault. If you’re 51% at fault or more, sorry, but you’re out of luck.
  3. Modified Comparative Negligence (The 51% Rule): Like the 50% rule, but you can only recover if you’re 49% or less at fault. Once you cross the 50% mark, no dice.

Why Does It Matter?

Comparative negligence isn’t just legal jargon – it has real-world consequences. The outcome of a comparative negligence assessment can significantly impact the amount of compensation you receive. It’s all about fairness – if you’re partially at fault, it’s only fair that your compensation is adjusted accordingly.

So, here’s your takeaway…

Comparative negligence might seem like a complex puzzle, but understanding its pieces can make a world of difference in a personal injury claim. It’s not just about who’s right or wrong – it’s about finding a fair balance when it comes to compensation.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where a personal injury claim may be justified, call my office.  With forty-plus years of experience, I can counsel you on the validity of your claim and the steps you should take to ensure you’re fairly compensated for your injuries and losses.

Until next time, please be safe, and NEVER text while driving!

Paul Samakow

Attorney Paul Samakow

703-761-4343 or 301-949-1515.

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