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What is 'comparative negligence' in a Connecticut car accident?

This blog has discussed various aspects of negligence, both when it comes to car accidents, and other personal injury lawsuits. The basic concepts in these cases are the same, though the facts are likely to differ widely. One concept that may be valuable to Connecticut residents who suffer damages in a motor vehicle accident is that of "comparative negligence."

Some readers may have heard another term -- "contributory negligence" -- before. This concept pertains to a person bringing a suit against another for damages when he or she was also partially at fault. With the traditional contributory negligence rule, if the person bringing the suit was at all at fault for the accident, even just a little, then he or she could not recover damages. This idea has been replaced in most modern jurisdictions, including Connecticut, by comparative negligence, which reduces the amount of damages a plaintiff may recover, but doesn't necessarily bar them entirely.

As is explained in the Civil Jury Instructions, comparative negligence requires that the trier of fact determine what percentage of fault each party to a lawsuit is responsible for. So, in a car accident, a jury might find that the plaintiff was 20 percent at fault because he was speeding a little, but the defendant was 80 percent at fault because he drove through a red light. In such a case, the plaintiff would be able to recover only 80 percent of the damages he could prove that he had suffered.

One final note. Connecticut follows what is called a "modified" comparative negligence rule. What this means is that if plaintiff is more than 50 percent responsible for an accident, he can recover nothing. So a plaintiff will not be eligible to recover, say, 20 percent of his damages under this type of comparative negligence. Those who have questions about compensation from a car accident may wish to consider discussing the case with an experienced Connecticut attorney.

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