Contributory Negligence Definition

Contributory negligence refers to actions a victim takes that increases their risk of injury beyond a reasonable level. If a victim fails to act as a reasonable person would, this may contribute to or worsen their negligence accident injuries. In this situation, the victim may be partially responsible for their injuries and may be unable to file a suit against the other party involved in an accident.

How Does Contributory Negligence Play a Role in a Personal Injury Claim?

At Berger and Green, we have seen the issue of contributory negligence come up in personal injury cases. When the question of whether you played a role in causing your own injuries or not arises in a case, it usually occurs after we file our claim and send a demand letter to the liable party’s insurance company, letting them know how much we expect to recover from them for your damages.

At this point, they are desperate to reduce the value of your case. They may assert a claim that your injuries occurred because of your own unreasonable actions. This sometimes happens even in cases where there is no proof to back up their claim. If they do present proof, we work to mitigate any evidence they have against you and minimize any fault they try to assign to you.

If they are able to provide enough evidence to prove you acted in an unreasonable way and this led to or worsened your injuries, you may receive a reduced payout—or you may not be able to pursue a claim against them at all.

What Is the History of Contributory Negligence in the United States?

In the past, many states saw contributory negligence as a way to bar the victim from recovering any damages. This means if you wore flip flops to a restaurant and slipped in spilled food no one cleaned up, you might not be able to file a claim for your fall-related injuries. It all depended on that particular court’s view of whether flip flops are “reasonable” footwear.

Today, however, these laws work somewhat differently in most jurisdictions. Courts slowly began to see how unfair this doctrine was and most now practice comparative negligence. Under comparative negligence, you can still collect some or most of your payout after an accident, even if you contributed to causing your injuries. If the court found you 20 percent at fault, for example, you could still collect 80 percent of the value of your case.  

What Does Pennsylvania Law Say About Contributory Negligence?

Like many other states, Pennsylvania follows modern comparative negligence laws, found in Pennsylvania General Assembly Statute §7102. This means you can file a claim and collect compensation for your injuries as long as the other party acted in a more negligent manner than you did. That means, as long as you were 50 percent or less at fault for your damages, you can collect compensation from the other party. This is one of the most common ways states handle this issue.

For example, imagine you were speeding at the time of a car accident. However, the other party ran a red light and hit the side of your vehicle. Your speeding may have contributed to the crash, but their failure to stop was the primary cause. In a case like this, the court may find you 30 percent at fault. You could still collect $70,000 toward your $100,000 in damages by filing a claim against the negligent driver.

Berger and Green Can Help You Win Your Pittsburgh Personal Injury Case.

At Berger and Green, we fight to get you the maximum payout possible for your Pittsburgh personal injury case. We can fight claims you contributed to your own injuries and ensure you can collect as much compensation as possible. Call our office today at 412-661-1400 to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.