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Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence

Posted in , on October 2, 2019

Comparative negligence and contributory negligence are two different laws that apply to negligence claims. Both comparative negligence and contributory negligence are two different ways of apportioning liability when more than one party is responsible for the accident.

In some states, an accident victim that is partially to blame for an accident can still recover significantly for their injuries. In other states, an accident victim who is partially to blame cannot recover for their damages. Our Colorado accident attorneys explain comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence.

Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence

Comparative negligence is the legal concept that an accident victim who contributes to an accident should still be able to recover something for their injuries. In most states that use a comparative negligence system, the accident victim can still recover a reduced amount of compensation based on the amount that they contribute to the accident occurring.

Legal Negligence

On the other hand, contributory negligence is the idea that a person whose actions make the accident occur shouldn’t be allowed to recover anything for their damages. The contributory negligence rule says that a person that shares any amount of fault for an accident can’t recover anything for their damages.

Contributory Negligence Example

A contributory negligence example is a car accident that involves two vehicles. The first vehicle makes a left turn on a red light. The second vehicle is speeding through the intersection 10 miles over the speed limit. The cars collide.

Both drivers share fault for the accident. In this contributory negligence example, neither party can seek compensation from the other. Even if the first driver bears most of the blame by turning left on a red light, and even if the second driver has much more severe injuries, contributory negligence bars both parties from claiming compensation for their damages.

Modified Comparative Negligence and Modified Contributory Negligence

Even though contributory negligence in its purest form prevents any recovery by a party who causes an accident, most states don’t use pure contributory negligence as a rule. Most states use a modified contributory negligence system or a modified comparative negligence system.

Usually, state law allows the finder of fact to take into account how much each person contributes to the accident. Typically, in most states, if a person is only slightly to blame for the accident, they can still receive a reduced amount of compensation based on modified comparative negligence or modified contributory negligence.

Examples of Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence

In the case of the car accident, pure contributory negligence laws would prevent the victim from recovering anything at all. However, if comparative negligence applies, the jury has to decide how much each party is at fault for the accident.

For example, the person who turns on the red light may be 75 percent to blame while the person speeding is 25 percent to blame. If pure comparative negligence applies, each party can seek to recover their damages reduced by the percentage that they personally are to blame.

If modified comparative negligence or modified contributory negligence applies, the person who turns on the red light who is 75 percent to blame cannot recover for their injuries. In that case, the party who is 25 percent to blame can still recover for their damages reduced by the 25 percent that they are to blame for the events leading up to the accident.

Does Your State Recognize Contributory Negligence or Comparative Negligence?

Whether your state recognizes contributory negligence or comparative negligence depends on state statutes and common law. Each state decides whether to recognize contributory negligence or comparative negligence. If a state has a written law, that’s what decides what system is used in the state. If there’s no written law, common law is used to determine whether a state recognizes contributory negligence or comparative negligence.

What Is the Contributory Negligence Rule?

The contributory negligence rule is the idea that an accident victim shouldn’t recover financially if they do something to make an accident happen. If an accident victim contributes to an accident happening that causes them an injury, their actions prohibit them from receiving compensation for their injuries and damages.

The contributory negligence rule is the idea that a person shouldn’t get compensation for an accident if they do something to make it occur. If a state uses a pure contributory negligence rule, any actions on the part of the victim that help bring about the crash are enough to bar the victim from receiving compensation.

Does Contributory Negligence Still Exist?

Yes, contributory negligence still exists. Most states use a system of modified contributory negligence or modified comparative negligence. That is, most states reduce a victim’s compensation if they’re partially at fault. Still, they don’t completely prevent a victim from recovering if they only contribute to the accident in a minor way.

Although contributory negligence still exists, the exact laws vary by state. The specifics of how contributory negligence applies depends on the state law that applies to the claim.

Colorado Comparative Negligence Statute

Colorado’s comparative negligence statute is Colorado Revised Statutes section 13-21-111 [1]. The law says that contributory negligence is not a bar to a negligence action in the State of Colorado. As long as the negligence of the person seeking compensation is not more than the negligence of the person that they want compensation from, the person can bring a claim for compensation. Colorado’s comparative negligence law is found in statute 13-21-111 as well as in Colorado common law.

CRS 13-21-111

CRS 13-21-111 is Colorado’s comparative negligence law. Colorado Revised Statute section 13-21-111 says that a victim of negligence can still bring a claim for compensation if they are partially responsible for the accident.

Colorado law requires the finder of fact to evaluate the negligence of each party. As long as the victim isn’t more responsible for the accident than the person they seek compensation from, they have a valid claim for negligence. CRS 13-21-111 asks the finder of fact to decide the negligence of each party expressed as a percentage.

Contact Our Personal Injury Lawyers

Do you have questions about contributory negligence or comparative negligence? We’re experienced accident attorneys, and we can help. Let us help you understand whether contributory negligence or comparative negligence applies in your case. Call us today for a free consultation about your case.

Sources

[1] C.R.S. 13-21-111

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Super Lawyers - Kyle Bachus
Million Dollar Advocates Forum
Martindale-Hubbell Peer Rated for Highest Level of Professional Excellence
Super Lawyers - Darin Schanker
The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyer
5280 Top Lawyers of Denver