Details on State Negligence Laws Chart

Maybe it was a fender bender in rush hour traffic in Los Angeles. Or perhaps you slipped on that section of the sidewalk your neighbor never shovels in Cambridge. Either way, if you're injured and you think it was someone else's fault, you may be asking yourself if you have a valid negligence claim. So how does such a claim work, and what are the state laws regarding how much you can get for your injuries? Here is a brief summary of state negligence laws.

General Negligence Laws

Negligence describes a situation when someone owes a duty to another person and fails in that duty, thereby becoming liable for any resulting injuries.

For instance, a restaurant owner who mops the floor and doesn't put up a "Wet Floor" sign could be considered negligent. A reasonable person should know that a freshly mopped floor will be slippery and thus a risk for causing injury.

Elements of a Negligence Case

There are several elements of a negligence case you must prove in court in order for your claim to be successful:

  • Duty: the other party owed you a duty of care;
  • Breach of Duty: the other party failed to meet that duty;
  • Cause in Fact: but for the other party's failure, you would not have been injured;
  • Proximate Cause: the other party's failure (and not something else) caused your injury; and
  • Damages: you have actually been injured and suffered some loss.

The following chart highlights some of the main theories of negligence. See Negligence: Background for a general overview.

Theory Description
Comparative Negligence

The legal doctrine of comparative negligence allows an injured person (the "plaintiff') to recover damages based on the percentage of his or her own fault (or "negligence") in the incident that caused the injury.

Example : In an accident where the plaintiff is found to be 10 percent at fault, he or she could still sue to recover 90 percent of the damages that were suffered.

Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery

Originally, under the doctrine of contributory negligence if it were shown that the plaintiff contributed in any way to his injuries, he was barred from any recovery. This has been modified over time to permit the plaintiff to recover even if he contributed to his injuries, as long as his fault is under 50 percent. In these cases, recovery is relative to fault.

Example: If a jury finds a party's injuries worth $100,000 and holds that the party was 25 percent at fault, the party's recovery would be $75,000. On the other hand, if the jury found the party 60 percent at fault, the party would be barred from any recovery.

Contribution Among Tortfeasors One liable party (called a "tortfeasor") may sue a fellow tortfeasor to recover any damages paid in excess of the proportion of fault.
Uniform Act Indicates whether the state follows the "Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act," which allows a person found liable for negligence (sometimes called a "tortfeasor") to seek financial contribution from others who are also liable, when the tortfeasor has paid more than her or his pro rata share of the common liability.

Note: State negligence laws are always subject to change, usually through legislation, ballot initiative, or court ruling -- contact a personal injury attorney in your state or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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