What Does Comparative Negligence Mean Under Massachusetts State Law?
Posted on behalf of Janet, Jenner & Suggs on May 1, 2017 in Personal Injury
The goal of any personal injury claim is to prove that the defendant was negligent in some way. Negligence refers to a failure to exercise the degree of care that an ordinary, reasonable, cautious and prudent person would exercise in the situation in question.
However, in some personal injury cases, the victim’s own negligence helped cause his or her injuries. This is also called comparative negligence.
For example, a pedestrian is partially responsible for an injury he sustained after stepping into a crosswalk when the “do not walk” sign was flashing and he was hit by a speeding car. A reasonable individual would not have stepped into the intersection when the “do not walk” sign was flashing.
Many states have adopted comparative negligence laws to address situations where personal injury victims have contributed to their own injuries.
Massachusetts’ Comparative Negligence Statute
Under Massachusetts’ comparative negligence law, personal injury victims cannot recover compensation if their negligence is greater than the combined negligence of all of the defendants. This means that plaintiffs can recover compensation as long as they are less than 51 percent responsible for what happened.
However, if you are permitted to recover compensation, it will be reduced by your percentage of negligence. In other words, a $100,000 settlement will be reduced to $80,000 if your contributory negligence is 20 percent.
This law is much friendlier to plaintiffs than comparative negligence laws in some other states. For instance, in Maryland, you are barred from recovering compensation if you have any percentage of negligence for your injuries.
Burden of Proof
In Massachusetts, the burden of proof for comparative negligence is on the defendant. Courts will assume that the plaintiff in a personal injury claim was exercising due care unless the defendant can prove otherwise.
The defendant can use the plaintiff’s violation of a criminal statute, ordinance or regulation as evidence of comparative negligence on the part of the plaintiff.
Total Negligence of All Parties
Massachusetts comparative negligence statute also says that the total negligence of all parties in the action must equal 100 percent, excluding parties that have already settled. This is why plaintiffs and their attorneys usually decide to keep all available defendants active throughout the trial.
Comparative Negligence in Insurance Claims
The concept of comparative negligence usually only comes up in legal proceedings. However, insurance companies may also apply these principles when dealing with insurance claims, particularly car insurance claims.
The Boston personal injury lawyers at Janet, Jenner & Suggs have in-depth knowledge of Massachusetts’ comparative fault law. We will build a strong case to help ensure the law is applied fairly to your claim.