If you have been injured in a personal injury accident in Delaware, you may be wondering whether you are entitled to compensation. Under Delaware law, victims of personal injury accidents are entitled to damages from the person whose negligence caused their injuries. However, determining liability is not always easy. Multiple people could be liable for the accident, including multiple parties or even corporate entities. Delaware courts use the doctrine of comparative negligence to determine who is financially responsible for personal injury accidents.
What Does Comparative Negligence Mean?
Every state uses its own rule for determining liability in personal injury lawsuits. Some states use a rule called contributory negligence. Under this rule, an injury victim cannot recover any compensation if he or she was even 1% at fault for the accident. Other states use various types of comparative negligence rules to determine liability. Delaware uses the doctrine of modified comparative negligence to determine liability in personal injury cases.
Under the comparative negligence rule, the plaintiff who files a personal injury lawsuit can recover damages as long as he or she was not more than 50% at fault for the accident. If a court order determines that the plaintiff was 51% at fault for the accident, the plaintiff will be barred from recovering any amount of damages. However, if the court determines that the victim was 50% or less at fault, he or she can recover compensation. The court will reduce the damage award by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault.
The Difference Between Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence
Most states, including Delaware, follow some version of the modified comparative negligence rule. This rule allows victims of personal injury accidents to recover damages, even if they were at fault. There are two main types of modified comparative negligence rule. The first rule is the 50% bar rule. When a plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, he or she cannot recover damages. The second is 51%. Under this rule, the plaintiff cannot recover damages if he or she was 51% or more at fault.
Some states follow a pure comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, the court awards damages based on the assigned fault. For example, even if the plaintiff who brought the lawsuit was 99% at fault, he or she could still obtain 1% of the damages. There are only 13 states that recognize the pure comparative negligence rule. Finally, five states continue to follow the contributory negligence rule. This rule has become less popular because it bars plaintiffs from recovering any damages if they were even 1% at fault.
A Real-World Example of Modified Comparative Negligence
Modified comparative negligence determines how much a plaintiff can recover in a personal injury lawsuit. Let’s examine a real-world example of modified comparative negligence. Let’s say Susan is driving a four-door sedan and makes an illegal u-turn at an intersection in Delaware. During the unlawful U-turn, Tom strikes Susan’s vehicle with his vehicle. Tom ran a stop sign before colliding with Susan’s vehicle. After her head slammed against the steering wheel, Susan suffered a head injury, sustaining $100,000 in damages. Tom also claims that he suffered $100,000 in damages.
After a trial examining all of the evidence involved, the jury determines that Susan was 49% percent to blame and Tom was 51% to blame for the car accident. Under Delaware’s modified comparative negligence rule, Tom would not recover damages if he brought a lawsuit against Susan because he was 51% at fault. If the court determines that Tom was 50% or less at fault, he would be entitled to recover damages. Since Susan was only 49% at fault, she can recover damages after the court reduces her share by her percentage of fault. In total, she could recover $51,000 of the $100,000 in damages.
What Happens if the Plaintiff and Defendant are Equally at Fault?
It is rare for a judge to determine that the parties are equally at fault, but it does happen in some cases. In Delaware, if the judge determines that the plaintiff and defendant are both 50% at fault for causing the accident, they would be unable to collect damages from each other. One person must be less than 50% at fault to recover damages.
Key Takeaways Regarding Comparative Negligence in Delaware
Many people are unaware of the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. Nonetheless, This legal doctrine can play a crucial role in your personal injury lawsuit. If you cannot prove, through evidence and witness testimony, that you were less than 50% at fault for the accident, you will not be able to recover any damages at all. Understanding the following essential aspects of the comparative negligence doctrine can help you as you navigate the claims process:
- Comparative negligence is a way for courts to assign fault to the various parties involved in a personal injury accident.
- There are three main legal theories regarding comparative negligence — pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence.
- Most states follow a version of the modified comparative negligence rule.
- In all three types of negligence rules, the damages you can collect from the other party are limited by the amount of fault the judge or jury assigns to you.
Discuss Your Case With a Personal Injury Lawyer
Have you or your loved one been seriously injured in a personal injury accident in Delaware? If so, you may be entitled to compensation for an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Proving liability is a crucial aspect of succeeding in obtaining the compensation you deserve. As indicated above, if you cannot prove that the defendant is mainly at fault for the accident, you will not be able to recover damages. One of the most important things you can do is discuss your case with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Delaware personal injury lawyers at Schwartz and Schwartz today to schedule your free initials consultation.