Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC

Personal Injury Lawsuits: A Look at Comparative Negligence

February 14, 2018

In Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, prospective injury claimants are often uncertain about their right of recovery under the law and how it is effected by their own behavior at the time of the precipitating incident.  Someone who slips and falls on another’s property, thus suffering an injury that was later worsened by a failure to seek medical attention in a reasonable time-frame after the accident, would not necessarily be entitled to recover full damages, given the circumstances surrounding the injury.

There are numerous instances in which the injured plaintiff contributes — in some way — to their own injuries.  Comparatively few cases are such that the plaintiff escapes unscathed from the perspective of fault contribution.  In challenging personal injury scenarios, it is often the case that the plaintiff acts “unreasonably” and “negligently” too.

We therefore arrive at a critical question: can you recover for your injuries, even if you are somewhat responsible?  The answer is rather simple, actually, but requires an understanding of the principle of modified comparative negligence.

Modified Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania lawmakers encoded the principle of modified comparative negligence in section 7102 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.  The principle establishes very specific and straightforward rules for a plaintiff’s recovery in the event of contributory fault.

Put simply, an injured plaintiff in Pennsylvania will not be barred from suing and recovering damages from the defendant(s), but only if the plaintiff contributed less than fifty percent of the total fault.  In other words, the plaintiff must be “less negligent” than the defendant(s) in the case at-issue.  If the plaintiff contributed some portion of fault (i.e., they were negligent, too) then their damage recovery will be proportionally reduced.

There are two important rules embedded in the principle of modified comparative negligence, so let’s explore two examples for the purpose of illustrating each rule.

  1. Suppose that you are involved in a slip-and-fall accident at a restaurant.  Both you and the restaurant owner are at-fault.  The restaurant owner failed to properly inspect the floors to ensure that there were no slip-and-fall hazards (and correct the spillage), and you failed to avoid the spill.  The spill was rather obvious, and therefore the court determines that you did not exercise reasonable care (and were negligent) in walking through the spill.  The court determines on the basis of the facts that you are sixty percent at-fault.  As such, under Pennsylvania modified comparative negligence, you would not be entitled to recover in a lawsuit.
  2. Suppose that you are involved in the same slip-and-fall accident as the above example, except the spill was not particularly obvious.  The court determines that — though you were negligent — you were only forty percent at-fault.  As such, you would be entitled to sue and recover damages in a lawsuit, though you would only be entitled to recover the proportionally reduced amount (i.e., sixty percent of the total damages).

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Allentown Personal Injury Lawyer

Here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC, our attorneys have over thirty years of experience successfully representing injured plaintiffs in a range of litigation, from motor vehicle accidents to defective product lawsuits, and more.  We are committed to the provision of personalized, engaged legal advocacy, and this approach has paid enormous dividends over the course of our firm’s operation.  Call (888) 777-7098 to connect to a skilled Allentown personal injury lawyer here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC.  During your free initial consultation, we will assess your various injury claims and determine the ideal path forward to ensure successful litigation.