Personal injury lawsuits offer injured victims the opportunity to recover their losses caused by the negligence of other parties. When a negligent party injures another party, the injured party can seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, a type of civil claim. However, many factors influence the available recovery from a personal injury lawsuit, and one of the most common is plaintiff liability.
When plaintiffs bear partial liability for a personal injury claim, state laws generally dictate their options and how their liability influences recovery. California is one of few states to follow a pure comparative negligence law, which allows a plaintiff to still recover damages even if he or she is up to 99% at fault for a claimed incident. However, the plaintiff loses a percentage of his or her settlement or case award equal to his or her fault percentage.
Anyone facing a potential personal injury claim must weigh the cost of pursuing the lawsuit against the potential recovery. For example, if a claim is only worth about $1,000 but it would cost that much or more to hire an attorney, it is probably not in the claimant’s best interests to pursue a lawsuit but rather look for an alternative resolution. If a personal injury claimant knows he or she bears partial fault for an injury, he or she must consider the potential impact on his or her future lawsuit.
In states that follow comparative negligence laws, the jury hearing a personal injury case reviews the details and evidence and assigns each party a fault percentage. Pure comparative negligence states, like California, allow the plaintiff not to face any bars to recovery regardless of his or her fault. In modified comparative negligence states, state law typically requires a plaintiff’s fault percentage to be less than that of the combined fault of all defendants in a case. For example, if a plaintiff is 51% at fault in a personal injury claim, a modified comparative negligence state would bar the plaintiff from recovery. In a pure comparative negligence state, the plaintiff would lose 51% of the case award.
In the event a personal injury claim involves multiple defendants, the plaintiff’s fault must not exceed the combined fault of all defendants in a modified comparative negligence state. This means if a plaintiff is 40% at fault and three defendants are each 20% at fault, the plaintiff can still recover since his or her 40% fault is lower than the combined 60% fault of the defendants. When multiple defendants share liability for a personal injury, the jury typically determines how much fault each defendant bears.
It is possible you suffered a personal injury and are slightly at fault for the incident, but this does not mean you should write off your right to recovery. Meet with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and determine if filing legal action is still in your best interests. If an attorney believes your fault is negligible, he or she will likely recommend pressing forward with the case. Losing 5% or 10% of your case award is not ideal, but it is better than no recovery at all.
If an attorney determines you bear more fault for an incident than you originally realized, it may be best to pursue alternative recovery instead. Your fault could also spur the other party to file legal action against you, in which case you would need a defense attorney. Ultimately, yes, it is possible to pursue a personal injury claim when you are partially at fault for causing the incident in question but succeeding with the claim will usually entail losing a percentage of your compensation equal to your fault percentage.