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Understanding Comparative Negligence Doctrine in Idaho

Fault refers to someone’s legal responsibility for an accident. Fault will go to the person or party most responsible for causing the victim’s damages, such as a distracted driver in an auto accident claim. Not all accidents assign 100% of fault to a defendant. Some cases involve comparative fault. Comparative fault refers to the victim’s portion of fault in contributing to the accident. Depending on where a plaintiff is filing a claim, state laws may bar him or her from recovery for comparative fault.

Is Idaho a Comparative Negligence State?

The two types of states are comparative negligence and contributory negligence. Most states are comparative negligence states. These states use laws that do not entirely bar an injured person from financial recovery if he or she contributed to the accident in question. Contributory negligence states prevent a plaintiff from recovering at even 1% fault. Some states use pure comparative negligence laws, meaning a plaintiff could be any percentage of fault (up to 99%) and still recover compensation, while others use modified comparative negligence laws. In a modified state, the law will cap a plaintiff’s ability to recover at a certain percentage of fault, typically between 49% and 51%.

Idaho is a comparative negligence state, not a contributory state. Section 6-801 of the Idaho Statutes states that comparative responsibility will not bar financial recovery in a cause of action to recover damages for someone else’s negligence. Victims involved in claims such as car accidents, therefore, do not need to worry about a small percentage of fault barring them from recovering compensation. Idaho also uses a modified comparative negligence law, however, meaning too much comparative negligence could lead to $0 in recovery.

Under Idaho’s modified comparative negligence law, the plaintiff’s comparative responsibility cannot be as great as that of the defendant. A plaintiff cannot be more than 49% responsible for his or her injuries. At half or more of responsibility for an accident, a plaintiff in Idaho will lose all right to demand compensation from another person. At 49% of comparative negligence or less, the courts will reduce the award by an amount equal to the percentage of fault. Ten percent of comparative negligence, for example, would reduce a $100,000 award to $90,000.

How Do You Calculate Comparative Negligence?

Calculating comparative negligence can be important as the plaintiff of a personal injury claim in Idaho. This step is often necessary before ever filing a claim. If you visit a Meridian personal injury lawyer, he or she may calculate your estimated portion of fault before agreeing to take your case. If the lawyer believes you to be more than 49% responsible for causing your injuries, he or she may not believe your claim is worth pursuing. Calculating comparative negligence is also important for estimating the total monetary value of your case.

In Idaho, the civil courts will gauge comparative negligence by analyzing all accident-related facts. A car accident case, for example, may involve an investigation of the scene, eyewitness statements, police reports, driving records, cellphone records, video footage, photographs, medical documents and more. The courts will listen to both sides of the case, examine the evidence presented and determine how much – if any – you contributed to the accident and injuries involved in your claim. It will then award a verdict accordingly.

If the courts believe you contributed to your accident, they will reduce your judgment award. A percentage of fault at 25%, for instance, would diminish your recovery award by 25%. The courts will require the defendant to pay you 25% less than he or she would have without the comparative negligence defense. Calculating your award takes subtracting an amount equivalent to your percentage of fault. For example, with 25% of fault, you would receive $37,500 of what was previously a $50,000 judgment award ($50,000 x 0.25 = $12,500; $50,000 – $12, 500 = $37,500). An accident lawyer in Meridian can help you calculate comparative negligence as well as combat this defense to maximize your compensatory award in Idaho.

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