When a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is filed, the injured person or those who have lost a loved one are alleging that someone else is responsible for the incident that led to the injury or death and therefore should be liable to pay damages. Sometimes, multiple parties may be at fault and more than one party is sued, for example, a truck driver and a trucking company. But what happens when the injured or deceased person was also somewhat responsible for the accident? Are they or their family out of luck?
“Contributory Negligence” and “Comparative Negligence”
The answer is, sometimes yes. The legal concept of “contributory negligence” describes negligent conduct on the part of the plaintiff/injured party that contributes to the negligence of the defendant in causing the injury, damage, or death. The laws in each state are different in terms of how a plaintiff’s negligence effects their ability to recover damages from any other party for their injuries:
- Pure Contributory Negligence. Some states have adopted the harsh and draconian standard referred to as the “pure contributory negligence rule” which means that if a plaintiff is even 1% at fault, they will not be able to recover any damages in a personal injury or wrongful suit. Only four states (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia) and the District of Columbia apply this rule.
- Pure Comparative Fault. In states that have adopted a “comparative fault” rule, damages between negligent parties are apportioned based on their proportionate shares of fault. Under a comparative fault system, a plaintiff’s negligence will not bar recovery of damages but it will reduce the amount of damages the plaintiff can recover based on the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. Twelve states, including Rhode Island, have adopted this standard.
- 50% Bar Comparative Fault. Under this rule, plaintiffs who are partially at fault can recover damages but only if their percentage of fault is below 50%. If a plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, they will not be able to recover any damages. Below that threshold, a plaintiff can recover damages, although the recovery will be diminished by their percentage of fault. This rule is followed in 11 states.
Connecticut: 51% or More at Fault = No Recovery
Connecticut, like 21 other states, allows for the recovery of damages, reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault, so long as “the negligence was not greater than the combined negligence of the person or persons against whom recovery is sought.” C.G.S.A. § 52-572h(b). This means that if a plaintiff is found to be 51% or more at fault, they will be barred from any recovery.
In Connecticut actions based on the theory of “strict tort liability” such as certain claims involving firearms, dog bites, or ultra-hazardous activities, contributory or comparative negligence does not bar the recovery of damages.
How a judge or jury apportions fault between a plaintiff and one or more defendants can be complicated and depends on the unique facts and circumstances of each case. Even if you believe that you or your loved one may have been at fault to some degree for an incident that led to a serious injury or death, in Connecticut you still may be able to recover damages from those who were also responsible. You should consult with an experienced Connecticut personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your case and discuss your options.
Nugent & Bryant: Your Connecticut Personal Injury Law Firm
At Nugent & Bryant, we have worked hard to build a reputation as one of Connecticut’s premier law firms advocating for accident victims’ rights. We are an experienced and skilled law firm that has been achieving results for our clients over 30 years. If you have suffered a personal injury or catastrophic injury, call us today at (203) 795-1111 for a free consultation.
This article has been prepared by Nugent & Bryant for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.