What Is Comparative Fault in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

If a person, company or government agency negligently or intentionally causes harm to someone, the person, company or agency has to pay for damages. In some cases, it is very clear who was responsible for an injury and the responsible party is 100 percent to blame. For example, if a company makes a car with defective brakes and a crash happens because the brakes don’t work, this is a case where the car company would be to blame.

In other instances, however, there is not just one cause of an injury. When a victim shares responsibility for the events leading up to the injuries, it becomes more complicated to determine who should pay for the damages.

Under traditional rules, if a plaintiff was even 1 percent responsible for his own injuries, he would not be allowed to obtain compensation. The legal doctrine that created this rule was called contributory negligence. This often had very unfair results, where a victim who made a small mistake could be deprived of compensation for serious injuries caused by someone else’s extreme recklessness or negligence.

Because of the unfair outcomes, the majority of states including Nevada have now adopted comparative fault rules to replace the doctrine of contributory negligence.

Comparative Fault in Nevada

Nevada Revised Statute 41.141 outlines the rules for comparative negligence in the state. Under this statute, Nevada established a rule called modified comparative negligence. In Nevada, a plaintiff is allowed to obtain compensation as long as his “negligence was not greater than the negligence or gross negligence of the parties to the action against whom recovery is sought.”

This means that as long as the victim is not more than 50 percent responsible for causing the injuries, he can obtain compensation for injury losses. This is different from rules in other states where a plaintiff can recover compensation even if he was 99 percent responsible. It is also different from some jurisdictions that require a plaintiff to be no more than 49 percent liable for losses.

When a plaintiff makes a claim under Nevada’s comparative fault rules, his recovery is reduced based on the percentage of fault that is attributed to him. For example, if a plaintiff suffered $10,000 in damages and was 25 percent responsible for causing his own injuries, the plaintiff could recover only $7,500 in compensation from the defendant. Since the plaintiff was 25 percent to blame, he’d be responsible for covering 25 percent of the cost of his injuries, or $2,500.

Comparative fault cases are complicated because it can be difficult to decide exactly how responsible a victim is for his own injuries. An experienced attorney can help injured plaintiffs prove their case and show that the defendant should be held accountable for a large portion of damages. Call Hofland & Tomsheck for a free consultation.