Q: What is comparative negligence?
A: Comparative negligence is a rule of law applied in accident cases that assigns responsibility and damages based on the negligence of every party directly involved in the accident. Comparative negligence can reduce the award of damages to the plaintiff in proportion to his/her fault. Comparative negligence is a standard that has been adopted in some states, however, some states still use contributory negligence which denies recovery to any party whose negligence has added to the cause of the accident in any way. Contributory negligence can lead to harsh results for the slightly negligent plaintiff in some cases, and therefore, has led some states to adopt comparative negligence in order to avoid barring the plaintiff from any recovery at all.
Alabama is a state that uses the "pure contributory negligence" statute. This means that in Alabama, if you are found to be in any way at fault for your accident, you cannot collect compensation for your injury.
A: Contributory negligence is a defense to negligence actions that essentially states that the plaintiff's own conduct caused, or at least contributed, to his or her injury. Jurisdictions across the U.S. follow one of three different schemes regarding contributory negligence: pure comparative negligence, partial comparative negligence, and pure contributory negligence. In pure comparative negligence jurisdictions, the apportionment of damages tracks apportionment of fault perfectly--if a defendant is 25% responsible and a plaintiff is 75% responsible, the plaintiff will recover 25% of his total damages. In partial comparative negligence jurisdictions, damages are apportioned only if the defendant's fault exceeds the plaintiff's fault. Thus, the plaintiff will not recover any damages in a partial comparative negligence jurisdiction if he is found responsible for 50% or more of his own damages. In pure contributory negligence jurisdictions, like Alabama, a plaintiff cannot recover any damages if he is found responsible for ANY of his damages. Depending on the facts of a particular case, there may be ways to combat a defense of pure contributory negligence. Thus, you should seek the advice of a local personal injury attorney regarding the specific details of your case.
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