What Is Comparative Negligence?

At one time most states in the U.S. had contributory negligence statutes. These statutes stated that if a person was even 1% at fault for an accident he could not recover damages from another party. Recognizing the intrinsic unfairness of these statutes, 46 of the 50 states have replaced contributory negligence with comparative negligence statutes. There are 3 types of comparative negligence.

Pure comparative negligence means that a party can collect the percentage of his damages for which another party was at fault. This means if one driver was 60% at fault, and the other driver was 40% at fault, the driver who was 40% at fault can collect 60% of his damages from the other driver and the driver who was 60% at fault can collect 40% of his damages from the other driver.

Less than comparative negligence (less than 50%) means that a driver who is more than 49% at fault for an accident is barred from recovering damages. Example: Two cars collide at an intersection with a four way stop sign. Each driver is found to be 50% at fault for the accident and neither driver can collect damages from the other.

In greater than comparative negligence (greater than 50%) the driver must be less than 51% at fault in order to collect damages so that in the example used above, both drivers could collect 50% of their damages.

Most insurance companies were applying the principles of less than comparative negligence statutes to claims even before comparative negligence statutes were passed. Pure comparative negligence and greater than comparative negligence statutes require that insurers pay more claims than they would under less than comparative negligence statutes.

The type of comparative negligence statue in a state can effect the cost of premiums on low price auto insurance. Pure comparative negligence and greater than comparative negligence statutes expose insurers to more risk than less than comparative statutes. Those who move from one state to another may notice an increase in their insurance premiums caused by the type of comparative negligence statute in the new state. Auto owners can get insurance quotes in their new state to find the best premiums.