How Does Contributory Negligence Work in Pennsylvania?
Determining who is at fault for your injuries and proving their liability is crucial in a personal injury claim. But what if you also acted negligently? How might that impact your recovery in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, contributory negligence can lower the compensation a victim receives in a personal injury lawsuit. The percentage of blame attributed to the victim is what determines this reduction in damages. When fault is somewhat obscure, defendants might try to convince victims to settle at lower amounts. However, when cases go to trial, victims might be able to recover additional compensation than if they settled, even if they partially caused their injuries in Pennsylvania. Contributory negligence does not factor into all personal injury cases. Even if you were negligent during an accident, it might be that your negligence did not contribute to your injuries or damages.
To discuss your case for free with our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940 today.
How Does Contributory Negligence Work in Pennsylvania Injury Claims?
Fortunately for victims in Pennsylvania, contributing to an accident will not totally bar them from recovering compensatory damages. Unfortunately for victims, contributory negligence can diminish recovery.
Pennsylvania operates under a comparative negligence standard. This means that a victim can still recover compensation if they somewhat caused their accident, so long as they were not more at fault for their damages than a defendant. If you share fault for your injuries, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of responsibility attributed to you by the court. For example, suppose it is determined that a plaintiff was 25% to blame for their injuries, and the defendant was 75% at fault. If the compensation awarded to a victim would have been $100,000, the victim in that case would only receive 75% of those damages, or $75,000.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, it all depends on the facts of your case. A defendant will likely be looking for ways to shift some fault onto you so that they do not have to pay the full damages granted to you. So, it is wise to enlist help from our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers, who can eliminate any questions that you also acted negligently, contributing to your damages. If comparative fault does factor into your case, you might not recover sufficient compensation to cover costs associated with your physical injuries or emotional pain and suffering.
How Contributory Negligence Works in Settlements and Trials in Pennsylvania
The prospect of contributory negligence can sometimes intimidate victims, convincing them to settle out of court. This might result in even less compensation than what might be awarded at trial, even if contributory negligence is a factor in your case.
Settling out of court almost always benefits defendants more than it does victims. Even if you somewhat contributed to the cause of your injuries, you might claim greater damages at trial. This is often true for several reasons.
The first is that settlement offers are generally low, even in cases of serious injury. They rarely fully compensate victims for their economic damages, let alone non-economic damages.
Suppose your economic and non-economic damages from an accident equate to $500,000. In an attempt to leverage your contributory negligence against you, a defendant might cite the fact that you somewhat contributed to your accident as an excuse to offer you a low settlement, say about $250,000. Even if you are found to have acted negligently in an accident at trial, you might still recover more than what was offered to you in a settlement. For example, if you were found to be 30% negligent, you could recover 70% of the compensation awarded to you. If $500,000 was the total awarded sum prior to factoring in contributory negligence, you could still claim $350,000 in damages, which might be higher than the settlement offered to you.
In light of this, you should consider your level of negligence and how it might impact you at trial before accepting a settlement offer from a defendant. Often, assertions that victims played a part in the cause of their injuries are baseless and are only attempts on the defendants’ behalf to convince victims to accept insufficient settlement offers in Pennsylvania.
Will Contributory Negligence Work Against Me in My Pennsylvania Injury Case?
Contributory negligence is not a factor in all injury cases in Pennsylvania. Even when fault is a bit more challenging to pin down, victims should not automatically assume that they played a part in causing their injuries or damages.
Various accidents, such as car accidents, can be chaotic. Victims might not always remember exactly what happened when an incident occurred and worry that they also acted negligently. This is normal, especially when reeling from the effects of a traumatizing accident in Pennsylvania.
Sometimes, negligent acts on behalf of victims have no impact on their recovery, as the acts were unrelated to their sustained injuries. For example, suppose you were riding on a motorcycle without a helmet, and you broke your leg after being hit by a driver. While it might have been irresponsible for you to forgo the required head protection while operating your motorcycle, that failure did not make it easier for you to break your leg in an accident. Similar logic can be applied to other situations to protect victims from contributory negligence impacting their personal injury lawsuits.
Silencing defendants who claim victims were partly responsible for their injuries requires evidence. Statements from medical experts can confirm that a victim’s injuries were caused by another party’s negligence, not their own. Furthermore, security footage, photographs, and eyewitness testimony can allow victims to prove that a defendant is wholly responsible for their injuries and subsequent damages in Pennsylvania.
Contact Our Attorneys to Discuss Your Pennsylvania Injury Claim
For help with your case from the Bucks County personal injury lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm, call (215) 709-6940 now.