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Comparative Fault

Under traditional tort law, a defendant could avoid liability by proving contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. Contributory negligence occurs when a plaintiff’s conduct falls below a certain standard necessary for the plaintiff’s protection, and this conduct cooperates with the defendant’s negligence in causing harm to the plaintiff. Where the plaintiff’s negligence for his or her own protection is the cause-in-fact and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages, then the doctrine of contributory negligence would bar recovery.

Contributory negligence has led to harsh results in some cases, and the vast majority of states have replaced the doctrine with an alternative called comparative negligence. The doctrine of comparative negligence reduces a plaintiff’s recovery by the percentage in which the plaintiff is at fault for his or her damages. A majority of states have modified this rule, barring a plaintiff from recovering if the plaintiff is as much at fault (in some states) or more at fault (in other states) than the defendant.

Inside Comparative Fault