Comparative Negligence in Personal Injury Claims
When you get into an accident in any state, investigators will explore the issue of fault and negligence. In Massachusetts, fault is determined under a modified comparative negligence law. Understanding how comparative negligence works is often the key to ensuring clients obtain the best possible compensation after a personal injury claim. Here is how it works:
Understanding Massachusetts’ Modified Comparative Fault Laws
If you have an accident in the state of Massachusetts, you can only recover damages if you are found to be less than 51% responsible. If the court decides you were more than 51% responsible, you lose the ability to recover any damages in most cases.
Your total damage award will decrease by every percentage point of responsibility you hold. For example, if the court awards you $50,000 for the accident but you were 15% responsible, $7,500 would be deducted from your award.
Types of Cases in Which Comparative Negligence Rules Are Used
Car accidents are not the only types of personal injury cases that involve an aspect of comparative negligence. If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident, a case of medical malpractice, a workplace accident, or any other type of personal injury case, the investigation team will look into how much of the accident could be attributed to your own negligence and how much is the fault of the other party or parties. In some cases, you may not shoulder any of the blame – but defendants in personal injury cases often look for evidence to the contrary.
What Is Negligence Under State Law?
Ask yourself if your behavior or someone else’s was reasonable. This is a good rule of thumb for determining negligence. If another person acting reasonably would have taken measures to avoid an accident, then the individual in question has acted negligently. For instance, if someone is involved in accident that would not have occurred if he or she was not speeding, the act of speeding is an act of negligence. Speeding is illegal, but other behaviors and choices that are not illegal, per se, may also fall under the category of negligence.
Negligence can be assessed using four criteria:
- The defendant had a duty to behave in a certain reasonable manner.
- The defendant did not live up to that standard.
- That failure led to an injury causing incident.
- The plaintiff’s injuries were directly caused by that incident.
How Comparative Negligence Plays Out in Personal Injury Cases
Every personal injury case is different and requires a careful evaluation of all the facts and pieces of evidence available. Often, what appears as a straightforward accident actually features several layers of duty and the potential for negligence. In Massachusetts, if you cannot prove the accident and subsequent injuries were 100% the other party’s fault, you may not obtain the full amount of compensation that would otherwise be granted. A personal injury attorney understands the precedents that govern how fault is viewed in the state and can help you build a case to obtain the maximum compensation for an accident.
In addition to claims of basic comparative negligence, the court may consider some accident behaviors as grossly negligent. Gross negligence occurs when a defendant’s behavior is exceedingly negligent, and it raises the opportunity for a plaintiff to secure punitive damages against the defendant.
Comparative negligence plays a major role in each personal injury case, but determining the details of how the rule will be applied often requires the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney. For more information about your personal injury claim in Boston and comparative negligence in Massachusetts, reach out to our team at Sweeney Merrigan Law today.