Comparative Negligence - Law 101
Hello, I'm attorney Kyle Bachus. The legal world is full of overly complicated jargon and terminology that can be intimidating if you don't know what it means. In my law 101 video series, I'm breaking down some commonly used legal terms so you can be informed and confident should you ever need to take legal action.
In this episode of law 101, we're going to break down the phrase comparative negligence.
Now we in other videos have talked about negligence, and that is acting unreasonably under the circumstances towards others. But what happens if somebody has acted unreasonably towards you, but you may have also done something that was unreasonable. How does the law deal with what is called comparative fault or comparative negligence? Well, here's how it plays out, okay.
First, you acting on your own have the same duty as the other people involved in the situation have, and that is, you have to be acting reasonably under the circumstances. What if somebody else runs a red light and hits your car, and so they've acted unreasonably. But what if you were speeding through the intersection. Well, you may be comparatively at fault for your failure to act reasonably under the circumstances. And in most states, the jury is asked to weigh the comparative negligence.
And so what happens really at the end of the day is, in some states, if you're 50/50 at fault, you can't make any claim whatsoever. That's called a modified comparative negligence state. In others, you could be more than 50% at fault, but your damages are going to be reduced by the amount of your fault. So if the value of your case were a hundred dollars, okay? Just hypothetically.
A hundred dollars and you were forty percent at fault; the court would reduce that hundred dollars to sixty dollars. They would reduce it by forty percent that you were at fault. So comparative negligence is a huge component. We need to demonstrate not only that the person who caused your injury is at fault, right? That they failed to act reasonably under the circumstances. But we also have to demonstrate that you or our client are not comparatively negligent in causing your own injuries.
Because to the extent that you are comparatively negligent, the value of your claim will be reduced on a pro-rata basis by your comparative fault. Now, one of the components of comparative negligence is something called assumption of the risk. What if you know the risk, you're walking down a sidewalk, and you see the sidewalk in front of you has not been cleaned off from snow or ice. Now despite the fact that the person who owned the home may have a responsibility or the apartment complex may have a responsibility to keep that area free of snow and ice.
If you assume the risk of walking across that snow and ice and you get hurt, that may be used against you under the comparative negligence doctrine. Colorado is a modified comparative negligence state. We are not a pure comparative negligence state, and that means that the consequences and the stakes are really high with respect to comparative negligence. Because if you are found to be 50% at fault or more, you get no recovery under the law.
And so that's why you might find in Colorado that insurance companies for the at-fault, is always looking for ways to put blame on the non-at-fault party, to try to get to that 50/50 where they don't owe anything at all. If you have questions about comparative negligence, or about assumption of the risk, we're happy to answer those personally for you at Bachus & Schanker. To learn more about other law topics that can help you feel informed and confident about the law, make sure to check out more videos in this series.
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