Comparative Negligence

In personal injury cases, the person that is injured may also be at fault for causing the injury. This concept is called “comparative negligence”. In other words, the injured party may still recover some of his or her damages even if he or she was partially to blame for causing the accident. In states using a comparative negligence system, a jury or judge determines the proportion of fault to be assigned to each responsible party.

For example, If you are using a defective set of roller blades, but fail to wear a helmet and elbow pads as a normally prudent person should do, a jury may deem you a percentage at fault for your injuries. So, if you are 20% at fault and a jury awards you $10,000 in damages, you will recover 80% of those damages, or $8,000.

A prudent person might suffer minor injuries from using a defective chainsaw, whereas a less prudent person who negligently fails to wear safety goggles while using the chainsaw might incur more severe injuries. In these cases, a judge or jury must calculate how much each party is at fault. Each state has its own rules for calculating damages that can be recovered when a victim is at least partially to blame for his or her own injury.

Another applicable example can be derived from a 2009 case in Illinois. A Chicago lawyer was aboard a train when the train stopped and overshot the platform of the intended stop. the doors to the train’s first car did not open onto the station’s platform. The plaintiff, as well as other passengers, stepped off the first car of the train and onto the rocks along the track. The plaintiff suffered severe knee injuries, including tears to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and his lateral meniscus cartilage, when he lost his balance and fell to the ground as he stepped off the train. According to the Union Pacific Railroad safety regulations, the train doors are supposed to stay closed if the car is not stopped directly on the platform. There was evidence that the plaintiff knew the car was not on the platform, but decided to exit the train anyway. Because the plaintiff did not wait for or request assistance, the jury was free to find him equally responsible for his injuries. The jury found the plaintiff 50 percent responsible for his serious train accident injury, and reduced his award from $250,000 to $125,000.

There are many examples of comparative negligence. If you are wondering whether or not you have a case, you must first ask whether someone was negligent in causing your injury but then you must also ask whether you were also negligent in some way for causing your injury.

If you want to discuss whether you have a case or not, feel free to contact our office at 561-266-9191 or email us at

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