Comparative and Contributory Negligence Laws by State

Accidents happen, sometimes through no fault of our own. Sometimes we may even contribute to the accident or worsen our own injuries, even if someone else started the accident. The court accounts for the fault of the injured parties to determine how much damages should be awarded or if damages should be awarded at all.

This is known as comparative or contributory negligence. Each state has their own laws defining how to compare the negligence of the injured party to the defendants and how to determine the damages. This may have a major impact on your ability to be compensated for your injuries.

Overview of Comparative and Contributory Negligence

When filing a personal injury lawsuit, the compares the negligence of all parties involved. The court examines the conduct of each party to determine who was at fault and how much they are at fault. Most states leave this matter for the jury to decide after hearing the evidence presented.

When an injured party is found to bear some fault for their injuries, the court may reduce their compensation or not allow them to receive compensation at all.

Comparative and contributory negligence can affect liability and damages for personal injury lawsuits involving:

  • Injuries from car accidents
  • Assault and battery
  • Property damage
  • Medical malpractice
  • Products liability in certain states
  • Breach of warranty or contract

Different Approaches Used by States

Comparative negligence and contributory negligence vary from state to state. The majority of states have a modified approach, which allows an injured party to recover a portion of their damages even if the jury determines they share some of the fault for their injuries. A handful of states continue to stick with the traditional or pure approach which may bar the injured party from recovering any damages for even the smallest degree of fault.

Pure Contributory Negligence

Pure contributory negligence does not let an injured party receive any damages if they contribute to their injuries at all, even if they share only 1% of the fault. Since this approach completely bars recovery, it is widely considered a defense to a personal injury lawsuit or a way for the opposing party to avoid being held liable.

Often this is viewed as the harshest approach on the injury party, also known as the plaintiff. As a result, the majority of states moved away from it and modernized their negligence approach.

Only four states continue to use this more traditional approach to negligence: Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Additionally, the District of Columbia uses pure contributory negligence for most injury claims. Recently, the District adopted an exception to this rule and now uses modified contributory negligence for lawsuits brought by pedestrians or bicyclists.

Modified Contributory Negligence

Modified contributory negligence depends on the percentage of fault of each party to determine if the injured party may receive damages and to calculate how much they may receive. However if the injured party’s fault exceeds a specific threshold, the court does not award any damages.

Currently there are 33 states using modified contributory negligence. There are two versions of this approach used by these states: the 50% Rule and the 51% Rule.

  • The 50% Rule does not allow the injured party to receive any damages if they are 50% or more at fault. But if the court determines they are 49% or less at fault, damages are allowed and the injured party may be compensated in proportion to their percentage of fault.
  • The 51% Rule does not allow an injured party to receive damages if they are 51% or more at fault for their injuries. But if the court determines the injured party equally responsible or less at fault, meaning 50% or lower, then the court can award damages in proportion to their percentage of fault. This means that the injured party can recover damages even if there is a 50/50 split of fault.

Although modified contributory negligence is the most common approach, many states include different provisions for how to treat cases with multiple defendants or how to handle third parties that may share some fault but are not included in the lawsuit.

Pure Comparative Negligence

The pure comparative negligence system does not completely bar an injured party from recovering if they share some of the fault for their damages. Instead, this approach allows the injured party to be compensated but reduces the amount of damages based on the injured party’s percentage of fault.

Under this approach, even if the injured party is 99% at fault for their injuries, the court may award damages for the 1% of fault attributed to the opposing party. As of today, twelve states utilize this approach when hearing personal injury lawsuits.

Slight/Gross Comparative Negligence

South Dakota is the only state that uses the slight/gross comparative negligence approach. The approach is a unique hybrid that combines contributory and comparative negligence. The court does not assign a percentage of fault to any other the parties, and instead looks to see if their conduct equals “slight” negligence or “gross” negligence.

The injured party may only receive damages if the court determines they were “slightly” negligent and the opposing party was “grossly” negligent. This approach is highly criticized because the meaning of slight and gross negligence is vague and the law does not provide any clear definitions.

State Laws on Contributory and Comparative Negligence

Each state defines their own approach to contributory and comparative negligence. The location of the definition by law is varied as well, which may make it tricky to find.

Some states define how they handle negligence in their state statutes or codes. Others rely on common law, or precedent from previous court cases, to determine how liability and damages should be calculated in negligent injury claims. Others include their rule on comparative or contributory negligence in the rules of civil procedure or jury instructions.

Whether you are the injured party or you are facing a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to know how your state approaches negligence claims and damages to understand what your liability may mean. Listed below, you can find which approach your state takes as well as where your state defines comparative and contributory negligence.

Alabama

Alabama is one of four states that uses contributory negligence. This means that if you bring a claim and the court determines you were even the slightest bit at fault for your injuries, you cannot recover any damages from the defendant.

However, certain individuals may qualify for an exception to this rule. Alabama law considers children under the age of 14 years old or people lacking mental competence incapable of contributory negligence.

Applicable Law: ARCP, Rule 8(c)

Back to Top

Alaska

Alaska uses pure comparative negligence for personal injury claims for damages from physical injuries, property damage, or wrongful death. When determining the amount of damages an injured party can receive, the court subtracts damages in proportion to the fault of the injured party.

Applicable Law: Alaska Stat. §§ 09.17.060

Back To Top

Arizona

Arizona uses pure comparative negligence as a defense in injury claims. An injured party is not barred from recovery if they were found partially at fault for their injuries, but it is up to the jury to decide the degree of fault. From there, the amount of damages awarded to the injured party is reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.

However, Arizona does not apply in cases where the injured party caused or contributed to the injuries or wrongful death through intentional, willful, or wanton conduct.

Applicable Law: A.R.S. § 12-2505

Back To Top

Arkansas

Arkansas uses modified comparative negligence and follows the 50% rule. When bringing a claim for physical injuries, injuries to property, or wrongful death, Arkansas determines liability by comparing the fault of the injured party and the party who caused the harm.

If the injured party was more than 50% or more at fault, then they are barred from recovery. But if the injured party was less than 50% at fault, then the court may award damages in proportion to their degree of fault.

Arkansas law defines “fault” as any action, conduct, risk assumed, breach of a warranty or legal duty, or omission that caused any of the damages by any party.

Applicable Law: A.C.A. § 16-64-122

Back To Top

California

California uses pure comparative negligence, which allows an injured party to receive damages even if they are 99% at fault for their injuries. However, California law does reduce the amount the injured party is eligible to receive in proportion to their degree of fault.

Applicable Law: Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal. 3d 804, 532 P. 2d 1226 (1975)

Back To Top

Colorado

For personal injury or wrongful death claims, Colorado law instructs the jury to apply modified comparative negligence to determine if the injured party may recover damages. Since Colorado follows the 50% rule, an injured party bringing a personal injury claim cannot recover any damages if the jury determines the injured party was 50% or more at fault. If the jury finds the injured party is 49% or less, then the injured party can be compensated in proportion to their percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: C.R.S. § 13-21-111

Back To Top

Connecticut

The Connecticut General Statutes provide that courts shall use a modified comparative negligence and follow the 51% rule. So long as the injured party in a personal injury negligence claim is 50% or less at fault, they may receive damages. But if the jury determines the injured party is 51% or more responsible for causing their injuries, their damages are diminished in proportion to their degree of fault.

If an injured party is suing multiple people for their injuries, Connecticut considers them as a single party when calculating and distributing fault for negligence claims.

Applicable Law: C.G.S.A. § 52-572(h)

Back To Top

Delaware

Delaware follows the 50% Rule of modified comparative negligence. When bringing a personal injury claim, an injured party can recover damages as long as the jury determines:

  • The defendant’s conduct constitutes plain negligence
  • The injured party is 50% or less at fault for their injuries

This means the fault can be a 50/50 split between the injured party and the person who caused the injuries and still allow for damages to be awarded. However, if the jury determines the injured party was 51% responsible for their injuries or more, then no damages may be recovered.

Applicable Law: 10 Del. C. § 8132

Back To Top

District of Columbia

For most personal injury claims, Washington, D.C. uses pure contributory negligence. As a result, an injured party cannot recover any damages if they contributed to their injuries in any way.

As of 2016, the District of Columbia started using the 51% rule of modified comparative fault for injury claims brought by pedestrians and bicyclists as well as tricycles, non-motorized scooters, skateboards, Segways, or other transportation that are “non-powered.”

Applicable Law: Wingfield v. People’s Drug Store, 379 A.2d 685 (D.C. 1994). Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016

Back To Top

Florida

Florida uses pure comparative negligence for personal injury cases. This means the injured party is not barred from recovering damages if they share some of the fault for their injuries. The court reduces the amount of economic and non-economic damages the injured party can receive in proportion to their degree of fault.

In cases where an injured party is bringing a lawsuit against multiple defendants, the court determines the percentage of fault for each party including the injured party themselves.

Additionally, Florida allows the defendant in a personal injury claim to show that nonparty, or a person not involved in the lawsuit, is at fault for part of all of the injuries. The defendant must identify or describe the nonparty by filing a motion or responding to the initial pleading filed by the injured party before the trial begins.

Applicable Law: F.S.A. § 768.81(2)

Back To Top

Georgia

Georgia uses modified comparative negligence, specifically the 50% rule. This means if you file a personal injury lawsuit, the person you are suing can raise a defense to prove you were also at fault for your injuries. If the court determines you were 50% or more at fault, then you cannot recover any damages. But if the court determines you were less than 50% at fault, then you can still be compensated but your damages are reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: O.C.G.A. § 51-111-7 and § 51-12-33

Back To Top

Hawaii

Hawaii abides by the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence. When bringing a claim for physical injuries, property damage, or wrongful death, the jury hears the case and determines the percentage of fault for all parties.

Even if there is a 50/50 split of fault between the injured party and the defendant, the injured party can still receive damages for their injuries. The court reduces the damages the injured party may be awarded based on their percentage of fault.

But if the injured party is found 51% or more responsible for their damages, the court does not award any damages.

Applicable Law: Haw. Rev. Stat. § 663-31

Back To Top

Idaho

Modified comparative negligence, commonly referred to as the 50% rule, is applied to Idaho personal injury cases involving physical injuries, damage to property, or wrongful death due to negligence or gross negligence. If the court determines the injured party is 50% or more responsible, there is a complete bar to recovery.

But the injured party may recover damages so long as the court determines they are 49% or less at fault for their injuries. The amount of damages the court can award are reduced in proportion to the injured party’s degree of fault.

Applicable Law: Idaho Code § 6-801

Back To Top

Illinois

Like a majority of states, Illinois uses the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence. This means an injured party cannot receive any monetary damages if the jury determines they are 51% or more at fault for causing the injuries. But if the injured party is 50% responsible or less for their injuries, the court may award damages reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: 735 I.L.C.S. § 5/2-1116

Back To Top

Indiana

Indiana law uses modified comparative negligence and follows the 51% rule for personal injury cases. An injured party that is found 51% or more at fault for their injuries cannot receive any compensation for their damages.

The court may award an injured party damages if it is determined the injured party was 50% or less at fault for their injuries. This allows injured parties to be compensated even if there is a 50/50 split. As a result, the court reduces the amount of damages in proportion to the injured party’s percentage of fault.

When there are multiple defendants, meaning two or more parties that the injured party is suing, Indiana holds each defendant liable for their percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: I.C. § 34-51-2-6Indiana Comparative Fault Act

Back To Top

Iowa

Under Iowa’s modified comparative negligence system, an injured party cannot recover any damages if the court determines they are 51% or more at fault for their own injuries.

If the injured party is 50% or less responsible for their injuries, they may recover damages reduced in proportion to their degree of fault. However if the injured party is determined to be 51% or more at fault, then recovery is barred and the injured party cannot be compensated.

Applicable Law: I.C.A. § 668.3(1)(b)

Back To Top

Kansas

Kansas uses the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence for personal injury claims caused by casual negligence with damages such as physical injuries, property damage, death, or economic loss. If the injured party bringing the claim is 51% or more at fault for their injuries, they cannot recover any damages. But if the injured party is only 50% at fault or less, the court may award damages in proportion to their share of fault.

Applicable Law: K.S.A. § 60-258a(a)

Back To Top

Kentucky

Kentucky is one of the handful of states that uses pure comparative negligence. Under this system, an injured party may recover damages regardless of their percentage of fault, even if they are more at fault than the defendant. To calculate how much an injured party should be compensated, the court reduces the damages in proportion to the fault of the injured party.

If there are multiple defendants, the court assigns a percentage of fault to each individual. In Kentucky, individual defendants are only responsible for paying damages amounting to their own percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: K.R.S. § 411.182

Back To Top

Louisiana

Louisiana follows a pure comparative negligence system for lawsuits where a person has suffered an injury, economic loss, or death. The jury determines assigns a percentage of fault to every person who caused the injury. This includes the injured party, the defendant’s being sued, and any people who are not in the lawsuit who contributed to the injuries.

If the jury determines that the injured party contributed to their injuries and shares fault, they may still recover but their damages are reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault.

However, if the injuries were intentionally inflicted by another the damages are not reduced even if the injured party shared some fault.

Applicable Law: L.S.A. – C.C. Art. 2323

Back To Top

Maine

Maine law observes the 50% rule of modified comparative negligence. This means that an injured party may still recover damages so long as any fault of their own is 49% or less responsible for causing their injuries.

However, Maine does not use a percentage when calculating the damages. Instead, the jury is instructed to to consider the injured party’s share in responsibility and reduce the damages accordingly by a dollar amount.

If there are multiple defendants, Maine also holds each of these parties who caused the injury joint and severally liable. This allows the injured party to recover their damages from one person and then shifts the responsibility over to the defendant to recover the portion of damages for the fault of others who contributed to the injuries.

Applicable Law: 14 M.R.S.A. § 156

Back To Top

Maryland

Maryland is one of five states that still utilize pure contributory negligence. Under this theory, an injured party cannot receive any damages if they share any fault in causing their injuries.

Applicable Law: Board of County Comm’r of Garrett County v. Bell Atlantic, 695 A.2d 171 (Md. 1997)

Back To Top

Massachusetts

Massachusetts uses the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence for damages suffered from physical injuries, property damage, or wrongful death. So long as the injured party is 50% or less at fault, they may recover damages that are reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault. But if the injured party is 51% or more responsible, then damages are not awarded. Massachusetts compares the percentage of fault for all parties when making this determination.

Additionally, Massachusetts provides that the violation of a criminal statute or law is not proof alone that an injured party may have contributed to their injuries. It may serve as evidence, but it does not automatically mean the injured party was negligent.

Applicable Law: M.G.L.A. 231 § 85

Back To Top

Michigan

Modified comparative negligence is used in Michigan personal injury cases, specifically the 51% rule. Here, an injured party cannot recover any damages if they are 51% or more at fault for their injuries. However, if the injured party is 50% or less at fault, they may recover injuries for economic damages in proportion to their percentage of fault but may not recover any non-economic damages.

Michigan courts examine the fault of all persons who caused the harm, even if they are not a party to the lawsuit. Then the fault of the injured party is compared to the fault of all the other persons who were involved in bringing the harm about.

Applicable Law: M.C.L.A. § 600.2959

Back To Top

Minnesota

Minnesota injury cases use the modified comparative negligence and employ the 51% rule. This means if the injured party was 51% or more at fault for their injuries, they may not recover any damages. If the injured party was 50% or less responsible, then they may recover damages in proportion to their percentage of fault.

When determining fault in Minnesota, it is important to note that the injured party may be found partially at fault for assuming an unreasonable risk or misusing a product in an unreasonable way.

When determining damages, the jury may factor in if the injured party failed to take unreasonable measures to avoid or mitigate (lessen) their injuries.

If anyone in the lawsuit requests, the court may instruct the jury to determine the percentage of fault for each party in the lawsuit, also known as finding separate special verdicts to determine damages.

Applicable Law: M.S.A. § 604.01(1)

Back To Top

Mississippi

Mississippi is one of the twelve states that use pure comparative negligence. This allows an injured party to receive damages even if they shared fault in their injuries and does not bar recovery no matter the percentage. The state uses the injured party’s percentage of fault to decrease the damages awarded in proportion to their fault.

Applicable Law: M.C.A. § 11-7-15

Back To Top

Missouri

Missouri uses pure comparative negligence when examining personal injury cases. Even if an injured party shared some fault for their injuries, the law does not bar them from receiving compensation. If the court finds in favor of the injured party, any damages awarded are diminished in proportion to the injured party’s percentage of fault.

Missouri law also this negligence theory for products liability claims, or when a person becomes injured as a result of a defective or dangerous product.

Applicable Law: MO Rev Stat § 537.765Gustafson v. Benda, 661 S.W.2d 11 (Mo. 1983)

Back To Top

Montana

Montana uses the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence for personal injuries cases involving damages from injuries to a person or property, or resulting in death. So long as the injured party is 50% at fault or less for their injuries, they may recover damages in proportion to their percentage of fault.

When determining the percentages of fault, Montana courts examine the conduct of all the parties responsible for causing the injuries. This means the court looks at not only the injured party and the defendant(s) but also potentially other people outside of the lawsuit.

Applicable Law: Mont. Stat. § 27-1-702

Back To Top

Nebraska

When determining if an injured party may recover damages, Nebraska uses the 50% rule of modified comparative negligence. An injured party is allowed to recover damages in proportion to their percentage of fault so long as the percentage is less than 50%.

Any contributory negligence chargeable to the claimant shall diminish proportionately the amount awarded as damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory negligence but shall not bar recovery, except that if the contributory negligence of the claimant is equal to or greater than the total negligence of all persons against whom recovery is sought, the claimant shall be totally barred from recovery. The jury shall be instructed on the effects of the allocation of negligence.

Applicable Law: Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 25-21, 185.09

Back To Top

Nevada

Nevada law follows the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence. In a personal injury case, the injured party can receive damages reduced in proportion to their fault if the court determines they are 50% or less at fault of their injuries. However, the injury party cannot recover any damages if they are 51% or more at fault for their injuries.

If there are multiple defendants, Nevada compares the percentage of the injured party to either the one person who caused the injuries, or the total percentage of all the parties that caused the injury.

Applicable Law: N.R.S. § 41-141

Back To Top

New Hampshire

Under New Hampshire law, the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence is used for legal actions for personal injury, property damage, and wrongful death. If the injured party’s percentage of fault is 51% or more, or exceeds the fault of the defendant or aggregate group of defendants, then no damages may be awarded. If the injured party was 50% or less at fault, then damages may be awarded in proportion to their percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 507:7(d)

Back To Top

New Jersey

New Jersey law observes modified comparative negligence, specifically the 51% rule, for all personal injury lawsuits brought on a theory of negligence as well as strict liability cases. First, the jury determines the full damages that the injured party may receive. Then, the jury examines the fault of each party.

If the injured party is determined to be 50% at fault or less, they may receive damages reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault. But if they are 51% or more at fault, no damages may be awarded.

Applicable Law: N.J.S.A. § 2A:15-5.1

Back To Top

New Mexico

New Mexico is one of the twelve states that utilize pure comparative negligence. This means that even if the injured party shares fault or contributes to their injuries, they are not barred from recovering damages. The percentage of fault on behalf of the injured party is used to proportionately reduce their damages.

Applicable Law: Scott v. Rizzo, 634 P.2d 1234 (1981).

Back To Top

New York

New York is one of twelve states that abide by pure comparative negligence. Instead of barring an injured party from recovering if they exceed a specific threshold of fault, New York allows them to receive compensation and reduces the amount of damages in proportion to their percentage of fault. This rule applies for lawsuits for damages as a result of personal injuries, property damage, as well as wrongful death.

Applicable Law: N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 1411

Back To Top

North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the last five states to continue to use pure contributory negligence. Under the scheme, an injured party may not recover any damages if the court determines they share any fault in causing their injuries.

This theory is used for all personal injury claims, including products liability lawsuits.

Applicable Law: Smith v. Fiber Controls Corp., 268 S.E.2d 504 (N.C. 1980); N.C.G.S.A. § 99B-4(3) (Product Liability)

Back To Top

North Dakota

North Dakota uses the modified comparative negligence approach and employs the 50% rule. Under this rule, the injured party in a personal injury or wrongful death claim may receive damages so long as they are 49% or less at fault for causing their injuries. The damages the injured party may receive are reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault. But if the jury attributes 50% or more fault to the injured party, they cannot receive any damages.

Any part may request the jury to find special verdicts, or determine the amount of damages along with the percentage of responsibility for each person who caused the injury. This includes people who may not be a party to the lawsuit, but did in fact contribute to causing the injuries.

North Dakota is unlike a number of states when it comes to injury cases involving two or more defendants. Each defendant is only liable for their percentage of fault, unless the defendants worked together or one encouraged the other to act in an unreasonable manner.

Applicable Law: N.D.C.C. § 32-03.2-02

Back To Top

Ohio

Ohio uses the 51% rule when using the modified comparative negligence approach. This means that if the injured party is 51% or more at fault for their injuries, they are barred from receiving any compensation for their damages.

The injured party may receive damages if the jury determines their percentage of fault equates to 50% or less. Any compensatory damages, or economic losses, the injury party may receive are reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.

Applicable Law: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2315.33

Back To Top

Oklahoma

Oklahoma law observes the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence. Under this practice, an injured party cannot receive any damages if the jury determines they are 51% or more at fault for causing their injuries. If the injured party is only 50% or less at fault, they may receive damages that diminish in proportion to their percentage of fault. This rule applies to civil suits to recover damages for personal injuries, property damage, and wrongful death.

Applicable Law: Okla. Stat. Ann. Tit. 23 § 13

Back To Top

Oregon

Oregon law follows the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence for personal injury, property damage, and wrongful death lawsuits. An injured party may receive damages in proportion to their percentage of fault as long as they are not 51% or more at fault. If the injured party exceeds this threshold, they are barred from receiving any compensation.

When attributing fault to the parties, the jury considers not only the fault of the injured party and the defendant(s) in the case but also any third parties outside of the cause that contributed to the injury. An injured party is not penalized for not including a third party in the claim and the third party’s percentage of fault is included in the comparison of fault.

However, Oregon does not factor in the fault of any person who is:

  • Immune from liability to the injured party,
  • Not within the jurisdiction of the court where the lawsuit is being brought, or
  • Not subject to the action because the statute of limitations has barred the claim

Applicable Law: Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 31.600

Back To Top

Pennsylvania

The courts of Pennsylvania follow the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence. This allows an injured party with a personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death claim to receive damages so long as they are only 50% or less at fault for their injuries. Accordingly, the court then diminishes their damages in proportion to the injured party’s percentage of fault.

However if the injured party’s fault exceeds that of the defendant(s), or 51% or more, then no damages may be awarded.

Applicable Law: 42 P.S. § 7102

Back To Top

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is one of the twelve states that use pure comparative negligence for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death lawsuits. Instead of barring an injured party from recovery if their percentage of fault exceeds a specific amount, Rhode Island still allows the injured party to recover damages but reduces the amount in proportion to their fault.

Applicable Law: R.I.G.L. § 9-20-4

Back To Top

South Carolina

South Carolina follows the legal precedent set in Ross v. Paddy and follows the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence. This allows an injured party to receive damages in proportion to their percentage of fault so long as they are found 50% or less at fault for bringing about their injuries. But if the court determines the injured party is 51% or more at fault, then the recovery of any damages is completely barred.

Applicable Law: Ross v. Paddy, 340 S.C. 428, 532 S.E.2d 612 (Ct. App. 2000)

Back To Top

South Dakota

South Dakota is the only state that uses the slight/gross negligence comparative fault rule. This approach is considered a hybrid of contributory and comparative negligence.

This rule allows an injured party to receive damages only if their conduct was “slightly” negligent and the other party was “grossly” negligent. However, if the court cannot determine a distinction between the levels of negligence, then the injured party cannot receive any damages.

Some attorneys and lawmakers dislike this rule because the statute doesn’t define any standards for what constitutes “slight” or “gross” negligence. This leads to a number of legal complications when bringing a personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death lawsuit in South Dakota.

Applicable Law: S.D.C.L. § 20-9-2

Back To Top

Tennessee

Tennessee abides by the 50% rule of modified comparative negligence for personal injury or wrongful death claims. This means an injured party can receive damages that are reduced in proportion to their fault so long as the court determines they are 49% or less at fault for their injuries. If the injured party is determined 50% or more at fault, then no recovery is allowed.

Each defendant or person who caused the injury is individually liable for their share of damages unless the court determines that the defendants acted by concert, or purposefully acted together. However, it is important to note that Tennessee law provides an extensive number of immunities that may allow a person to escape being held liable for the injured party’s damages.

Applicable Law: Tenn. Code § 29-11-103

Back To Top

Texas

Texas follows the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence for personal injury cases as well as lawsuits for damages under the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. This allows an injured party to receive compensation reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault so long as their percentage of fault does not equate to or exceed 51%. However, an injured party who is 51% or more at fault for their injuries is barred from recovering any damages.

Applicable Law: Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Ann. §§ 33.001-33.017

Back To Top

Utah

When determining liability and damages for personal injury lawsuits, Utah uses the 50% rule of modified comparative negligence. This allows an injured party to receive damages proportional to their percentage of fault so long as the court determines them 49% or less at fault for their injuries. If the jury determines the injured party is 50% or more at fault, then no damages are awarded.

The jury can assign a percentage of fault to all parties involved in causing the injury, including the injured party, any defendants, and any third parties not in the lawsuit but contributed to the injuries. An injured party can pursue damages from any defendant or group of defendants but each defendant can only be held liable to pay for their specific share of damages.

Applicable Law: U.C.A. § 78B-5-818

Back To Top

Vermont

Vermont uses the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence for personal injury, property damage, and wrongful death lawsuits. An injured party cannot receive any damages if the jury determines they are 51% or more at fault for their injuries.

In order for an injured party to receive compensation for their injuries, their percentage of fault may not be equal to or exceed 51%. When awarding damages, the court reduces the damages in proportion to the percentage of fault assigned to the injured party.

Each defendant can only be held liable to pay a dollar amount of damages in proportion to their percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: Vt. Stat. Ann. Tit. 12, § 1036

Back To Top

Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia is one of the few jurisdictions that still utilize the pure contributory negligence approach. If the court determines the injured party shares any fault in causing their injuries, they may not receive any damages. Even the slightest bit of fault on behalf of the injured party would bar recovery.

Virginia law does provide a few exceptions to this rule, such as injuries suffered by railroad employees or other specific circumstances provided in the Virginia Code.

Applicable Law: Virginia Civil Model Jury Instruction No. 6.000

Back To Top

Washington

Washington State uses pure comparative negligence for actions to recover damages for personal injuries, property damage, or wrongful death. An injured party can still receive compensation for their injuries even if the jury determines they share responsibility for causing their injuries. This differs from other states in that there is no cut off percentage of fault that would bar an injured party from recovering damages. As a result, the injured party may only receive damages in proportion to their percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: R.C.W.A. §§ 4.22

Back To Top

West Virginia

As of 2015, West Virginia law moved to use the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence. Under this rule, an injured party can recover damages reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault if the jury determines that they are 50% or less at fault for the injuries. However, the injured party is barred from recovering any compensation if they are found to be 51% or more at fault.

It is important to note that the 51% Rule in West Virginia only applies to lawsuits for injuries that occurred on May 25, 2015 and on. For any injuries that occurred before this date, West Virginia relies on the old 50% rule.

Applicable Law: W. Va. Code § 55-7-13a-d

Back To Top

Wisconsin

Wisconsin uses the 51% rule of modified comparative negligence for lawsuits for injuries from property damage, personal injuries, or wrongful death.

The court may award damages to an injured party who is determined to be 50% or less at fault for their injuries. As a result, the damages awarded are reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault the injured party shares in causing their injuries. However, any percentage over this threshold would completely bar the injured party from receiving compensation.

Wisconsin is unique in that it compares the negligence of each defendant separately. All of the defendants that are found to be more negligent than the injured party are held jointly and severally liable for the damages.

Applicable Law: Wis. Stat. § 895.045

Back To Top

Wyoming

Wyoming uses modified comparative negligence, specifically the 51% rule, for wrongful death, personal injury, and property damage lawsuits. The injured party may receive compensation so long as the jury determines they are only 50% or less at fault for causing the injuries. As a result, their injuries are diminished in proportion to the percentage of damage assigned by the jury.

If the injured party’s percentage of fault is 51% or more, then they are barred from recovery. Like a number of states, the court may make a special finding of fact to determine the amount of damages the injured party may be eligible for regardless of fault and then assign percentages of fault for each person involved. Each defendant may only be held responsible to pay for damages in proportion to their percentage of fault.

Applicable Law: Wyo. Stat. § 1-1-109(b)

Back To Top

Speak with an experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today

Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local personal injury attorney to discuss the merits of your case. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position for recovering the compensation that you deserve.

Your Next Step:

Enter your location below to get connected with a qualified Personal Injury attorney today.

Additional Personal Injury Articles

Related Topics In This Section