What does “contributory negligence” mean?

On Behalf of | Nov 25, 2019 | Injuries

According to FindLaw, the premise of any personal injury case hinges on the concept of negligence. This is the case regardless of how a plaintiff sustains an injury, whether through car accident, slip and fall or any other means. Negligence occurs when one party fails to uphold his or her civic duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury from befalling another. However, the state of Massachusetts also recognizes that sometimes, plaintiffs’ inattention or negligent behavior may also have contributed to their accidents. To account for cases in which the defendant and plaintiff both share the blame, the state adopted the doctrine of contributory negligence. 

Contributory negligence laws do not bar an injured party from recovering compensation so long as the plaintiff’s negligence does not exceed the defendant’s. However, the courts will reduce the amount the plaintiff may recover by the percentage of fault he or she assumes. For instance, if you sustained an injury in a car accident and the deciding parties determine you are 30% accountable for the accident, you will receive 30% less than the total final settlement. What this means is that if you filed a claim for $10,000, you would receive $7,000. If your percentage of fault exceeds 50%, you cannot recover any damages. 

If your case has multiple defendants, the deciding parties would compare your negligence to the total combined negligence of all defendants. Cases that typically have multiple defendants include product liability cases and medical malpractice suits. 

When determining your share of fault, the deciding parties will consider whether you violated a law, statute or regulation. Though a violation in and of itself will not bar you from recovery, it may increase your percentage of fault. 

You should not use this article as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.