Contributor Negligence

Navigating through a legal issue after an unfortunate incident requires an understanding of certain principles that might affect the case’s outcome. One such principle is contributory negligence, a key legal concept that determines the extent of a plaintiff’s own involvement in their injury or damages in a civil case. [1]

This concept helps in determining liability and the amount of damages to be awarded in a negligence lawsuit. Contributory negligence essentially examines whether the plaintiff’s actions played a role in causing the harm they suffered, and to what extent.

This concept is often a point of contention in personal injury cases and requires a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the incident to determine the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff.

Contributory Negligence Rule

This rule is used in tort law to allocate responsibility for an accident or injury between the plaintiff and the defendant.

Under contributory negligence, if a plaintiff is found to have contributed in any way to their own injury, they are completely barred from recovering damages from the defendant, even if the defendant is also found to be negligent.

This strict approach to negligence can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case, as it places a heavy burden on the plaintiff to prove that they did not contribute to their own injury.

As a result, the contributory negligence rule has been criticized for its harshness, and many jurisdictions have replaced it with a comparative negligence system that allows for a more equitable allocation of damages based on the degree of fault of each party.

Contributory Negligence Rule

How Contributor Negligence Affects Personal Injury Claims

In cases where the injured party is found to have contributed to their own injury, their compensation may be reduced or even denied. The process of determining liability becomes important in these cases, as the degree of fault assigned to each party directly affects the amount of compensation awarded.

To support allegations of contributory negligence, evidence such as witness statements, medical records, and expert testimony may be required. This evidence helps establish the extent to which the injured party may have contributed to their own injury, which can then impact the compensation they are entitled to receive.

Personal injury cases involving contributory negligence laws can arise from various situations, including car accidents, medical malpractice, and slip-and-fall incidents.

Comparative Negligence Laws

Comparative negligence laws are designed to determine the degree of fault of each party involved in an accident or injury. There are two main types of comparative negligence rules: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence.

Pure comparative negligence allows the plaintiff to recover damages no matter their level of fault. The damages awarded are reduced based on the plaintiff’s degree of negligence. [2] States that follow pure comparative negligence include:

  • California
  • Florida
  • New York

Modified comparative negligence, on the other hand, limits the plaintiff’s ability to recover damages based on their level of fault. If the plaintiff is found to be equally or more at fault than the defendant, they are not able to recover any damages. States like Kansas, Michigan, and Nebraska follow a modified comparative negligence rule. [3]

In pure comparative negligence states, the plaintiff can recover damages even if they are mostly at fault, while in modified comparative negligence states, their ability to recover damages is limited based on their level of fault.

Comparative Negligence Laws

The Difference Between Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence

Under contributory negligence, if the injured party is found to have even a small percentage of fault in the accident, they are barred from collecting any damages.

Comparative fault allows the injured party to still collect damages even if they are partially at fault for the accident.

The amount of damages a person can recover is reduced based on their percentage of fault. There are two types of comparative fault: pure and modified. Under pure comparative fault, the injured party can still recover damages even if they are 99% at fault.

In modified comparative fault states, the injured party cannot recover damages if they are found to be equally or more at fault than the other party. States that use this rule include New York and Texas.

For example, if someone is injured in a car accident and is found to be 20% at fault, they can only receive 80% of the total damages under comparative fault. Under contributory negligence, they would not be entitled to any damages at all.

Contact Goldberg & Loren today for a free consultation regarding your personal injury case today. 


Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine that prevents a plaintiff from recovering damages if they are found to have any degree of fault in causing their own injury. [4]

In cases of contributory negligence, any compensation awarded to the claimant can be reduced by the percentage that their own negligence contributed to the accident or injury. This adjustment is based on the claimant's share of the fault in causing their own harm. [5]

Contributory negligence can be used as a defense by a defendant in a personal injury case. If a plaintiff demonstrates that injuries were caused by the defendant's negligence, the defendant can use contributory negligence as a defense. To prove contributory negligence, defendants must show that the plaintiff's own actions contributed to their injuries by failing to exercise the same level of care as a reasonably prudent person would. [5]


[1] Bieber, C. (2022, September 13). What Is Contributory Negligence? Definition & Examples. Forbes Advisor.

[2] comparative negligence. (n.d.). LII / Legal Information Institute.

[3] Justia. (2018, April 25). What Is the Difference Between Comparative and Contributory Negligence? | Justia.

[4] Contributory Negligence | District of Columbia Courts. (n.d.).

[5] Bieber, C. (2022, September 13). What Is Contributory Negligence? Definition & Examples – Forbes Advisor.

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