How does contributory and comparative negligence affect my car accident lawsuit?

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Anyone who has experienced an auto accident knows how quickly things can spiral out of control. With any luck, all parties involved can walk away from such an event unharmed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In the event an auto accident leads to injury, it’s crucial to determine who is at fault and the level of culpability they contributed to the accident.

Comparative fault and contributory negligence are models for determining who bears responsibility for an auto accident. This is central to car accident lawsuits as there is often no clear answer. Oftentimes more than one person may have acted with negligence. The level of negligence will determine whether or not and how much a plaintiff may recover in damages.

Negligence is generally accepted as a failure to employ reasonable care. For instance, not paying attention to the road or texting on your mobile device while driving.

How damages are awarded differ by state and are determined by contributory or comparative negligence. The rule of contributory negligence states an injured party may not collect damages following a car accident if they were partially to blame for the accident. On the other hand, comparative negligence awards damages based on each party’s share of the fault.

Rhode Island law follows a pure comparative negligence rule. This means that parties damages awards are reduced by the amount that they were deemed to be at fault for the accident. So, a party who is found to be 50% at fault will have their damages reduced proportionally by the same amount of fault. In other words, if you were awarded $100,000.00, but found to be 50% at fault for the accident, you would receive $50,000.00 in damages, not the full award of $100,000.00.

Additionally, the concept of joint and several liability is enforced in Rhode Island. As such, each party found jointly and severally liable for an act of negligence is independently liable for the whole damages awarded.

In the event an injured party wins a judgment against several parties collectively, the full value of that judgment can be collected from any one of them.

To discuss options regarding your auto accident lawsuit, contact our office today.


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