Understanding Comparative Fault in Connecticut and Rhode Island
You have just been in an auto accident. You know the other driver was at fault, but he says you were to blame. You both report the accident to your respective insurance companies, and there are extended back-and-forth negotiations. Ultimately, you cannot reach a settlement, and the case heads to court.
Pure vs. Modified Comparative Fault
What happens when a judge or jury has to sort out fault in an auto accident or other personal injury case? Most states, including Connecticut and Rhode Island, maintain some sort of “comparative fault” rule, which allows a plaintiff to collect damages from a negligent defendant even if the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident. A handful of states, notably Maryland and Virginia, retain the older rule of “contributory negligence,” which states a plaintiff recovers nothing if he or she was even 1 percent liable.
Even among states that have adopted “comparative fault” or “comparative negligence” rules, there are important differences. Rhode Island, for instance, is considered a “pure” comparative fault state. This means that even if the plaintiff was 99 percent responsible for a car accident, the defendant can still be held responsible for the other 1 percent.
In contrast, Connecticut is a “modified” comparative fault state. By law, a plaintiff can recover damages only if he or she was 50 percent or less at fault for the accident. So, in the hypothetical auto accident suggested above, if the jury finds you were 49 percent responsible, you could still recover damages from the defendant. The award itself would be reduced by 49 percent to reflect your comparative fault. If the jury, however, found you were 51 percent at fault, you would recover nothing.
Speak with a Connecticut Car Accident Attorney Today
As you can see, determining each party’s respective level of fault is important following an auto accident. Insurance companies are experts when it comes to investigating accidents and pressuring the other side to accept its proposed allocation of fault. Having an experienced Connecticut and Rhode Island personal injury attorney on your side can help level the playing field. Do not accept even partial responsibility for an accident you did not cause.