Negligence can be a confusing legal concept. In basic terms, negligence is when a person acts carelessly and his or her actions harm someone else. Some of the common examples of negligence are car accidents and slip-and-fall accidents, such as on uneven flooring in heavily trafficked areas or wet floors. These are accidents, but ones where a person or company can be found, at least partially, at fault because they weren’t acting at the standard of care expected of them.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence
State laws were developed to regulate negligence. The two main negligence legal doctrines are comparative negligence and contributory negligence. Few states still have the traditional contributory negligence, where any fault on the part of the plaintiff will prevent them from recovering for his or her losses, even if he or she was only 1% at fault and the defendant was 99% fault. Fortunately for plaintiffs, most states, Mississippi included, no longer have this harsh negligence regime and have moved onto using comparative negligence.
Comparative negligence allows a plaintiff to recover even if he or she was partially at fault. The two types of comparative negligence are pure and modified. In a state with “pure” comparative negligence, the claimant can collect from a defendant, even if he or she was found 99% at fault by the judge or jury. The defendant would still bem liable for his 1% fault. Mississippi has a pure comparative negligence system. In a “modified comparative fault” court system, used by the majority of states now, the plaintiff only recovers if he or she is found less than 50% or 51% at fault. The exact percentage depends on the laws of the state.
Contribution Among Defendants
Defendants usually pay the amount corresponding to the percentage of fault the judge or jury assigns to them. However, sometimes a defendant can’t be collected against, either because he or she is poor and has no assets or the defendant is an immune government entity like a public school (but understands that’s not always true!). In some states, a wealthy defendant may have to cover the portion of a judgment-proof or immune defendant. In Mississippi, defendants typically only have to pay for the percentage of fault for which the judge or jury found them responsible.
The table below outlines the negligence laws in Mississippi.
|Code Sections||Mississippi Code Sections 11-7-15: Contributory Negligence No Bar to Recovery of Damages, Jury May Reduce Damages and 85-5-7: Limitation of Joint & Several Liability, Contribution Between Joint Tortfeasors.|
|Comparative Negligence||Mississippi is a pure comparative fault state where the plaintiff can recover from a defendant or defendants no matter how at fault the plaintiff was.|
|Contributory Negligence||Contributory negligence isn’t a bar to recovering damages or financial losses from an accident or injury caused by negligence. However, the compensation a plaintiff receives is proportionally limited by the amount he or she was considered negligent.|
|Contribution Among Tortfeasors||Generally, a “tortfeasor” (defendant found liable for causing the “tort” or injury) is only responsible for the percentage of fault that was attributed to him or her. However, if the tortious acts were intentional, then the defendants are “jointly and severally liable” and they can seek contribution for the damages they have paid from other tortfeasors.|
Note: State laws are revised frequently, it’s important to contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify these negligence laws.
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Mississippi has complex personal injury laws. Finding a Mississippi attorney who understands Mississippi's tortfeasor contribution rules and Mississippi's contributory negligence statutes can ensure that you maximize your financial award. If you are dealing with a personal injury matter that merits compensation, it's in your best interests to contact a Mississippi injury attorney for a free claim evaluation.
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