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Contributory Fault

Contributory Fault

If you were involved in a car accident or other type of personal injury incident, you will want to know how your own negligence impacts your claim. The other party might blame you for the accident, or you might even accept some responsibility. In situations of this nature, the concept of contributory fault could affect your case. 

It is essential to understand contributory fault and how your personal injury case could be affected. 

What Is Negligence and How Is It Affected by Contributory Fault?

What Is Negligence and How Is It Affected by Contributory Fault?

Most personal injury cases are based on the legal concept of negligence. Negligence occurs when someone acts in an unreasonable manner and causes harm to someone else. If you were injured because of negligence, you could seek compensation for the damages you suffered. 

You must prove four legal elements to establish a claim for negligence in Colorado:

  • Duty – The defendant owes a legal duty to the accident victim or must act as an ordinarily prudent person would act under similar circumstances. 
  • Breach of duty – The defendant did something or failed to do something that breached the duty of care. 
  • Causation – The defendant’s breach of the duty of care caused harm to the accident victim.  
  • Damages – The accident victim suffered damages for which a court can compensate them. 

Personal injury lawyers can help gather evidence to help establish each element of the case. However, the defense can introduce the concept of contributory fault if the accident victim contributed to the accident. Whether a victim can still recover compensation if they were also at fault for the accident depends on the fault system in the state of the accident. 

Types of Contributory Fault

Various types of contributory fault can apply to a case. Each state establishes its own system, including:

Contributory Negligence 

The old rule that applied in the United States was contributory negligence. Under this system, an accident victim could not pursue compensation for their damages if they were at all responsible for the accident. Even if they were just 1% at fault for the accident, they could not recover compensation. 

This system was seen as harsh, so it has mostly been abolished. However, some states still use it, including Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. 

Pure Comparative Fault

Pure comparative fault is the opposite of contributory negligence. Accident victims can recover compensation as long as the defendant is at all responsible for the accident. So, even if the accident victim is 99% at fault for the accident, they could still pursue compensation against the defendant for the 1% of damages they suffered because of the defendant’s actions. 

Modified Comparative Fault 

Most states follow a modified comparative fault system, though the particulars may vary. In these jurisdictions, accident victims can still recover compensation if they were partially at fault for an accident as long as they do not pass a certain liability threshold, usually around 50%. 

Here are a few variations of comparative fault: 

  • 50% bar– In this system, the accident victim cannot be 50% or more at fault to recover compensation. 
  • 51% bar – In this system, the accident victim cannot recover compensation if they are 51% or more at fault. 
  • 49% bar – Like with the two above systems, this rule sets the maximum amount of fault an accident victim can have and still recover compensation. In this case, it is 49%.
  • Proportionate responsibility – In this type of system, the accident victim’s share of responsibility must be lower than the defendant’s to recover compensation. 

In these states, if the plaintiff’s right to pursue compensation is not barred, they can still pursue compensation. However, their compensation is reduced by their degree of responsibility. For example, if someone is found to be 20% at fault for an accident in one of these jurisdictions, their compensation is reduced by 20%. 

Colorado Contributory Fault

Colorado law uses a modified comparative fault system. Under this system, your contributory negligence does not bar recovery as long as your negligence is not as great as the defendant’s negligence. A judge or jury is responsible for determining the degree of fault of all negligent parties and assigning proportionate responsibility. Your damages are reduced according to your degree of fault. 

Why It’s Important Not To Admit Fault For An Accident

It’s natural to want to say “I’m sorry” after an accident, but this type of statement can imply that you are responsible for the accident. Statements of fault can form the basis for an insurance company to blame you entirely for the accident or to reduce the value of your claim by your percentage of fault. 

It’s important to keep in mind that you might not know everything that factored into an accident. For example, a trucking company may have hired an inexperienced driver, the driver could have been drunk, or a defective auto part may have been involved. Let an experienced lawyer handle the investigation and negotiation for you. 

A Denver Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help Combat Claims of Contributory Fault 

Insurance companies and defense attorneys may attempt to blame you for your injuries. Contributory fault allegations can limit your ability to recover compensation after an accident. You don’t have to go through this alone. An experienced Denver personal injury lawyer can help you mitigate accusations of fault and recover full compensation. 

Contact Zaner Harden Law at (720) 613-9706 today for a free consultation and to learn more about contributory fault.  

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We are located across the street from Union Station in downtown Denver and offer validated parking for all our clients. We also have offices in Boulder and Colorado Springs.