Negligence is the basis of most Utah personal injury claims. Negligence is an individual or entity’s breach of the duty of care, often resulting in harm to others. Comparative negligence is a related law that specifically refers to a plaintiff’s alleged fault in contributing to his or her injuries. It is important to understand your state’s comparative negligence law, as it could greatly impact your claim.
Most states abide by either comparative or contributory negligence laws. Comparative laws are forgiving toward plaintiffs while contributory laws are not. In a comparative negligence state, a plaintiff’s partial contribution to an accident will not take away his or her right to obtain compensation. In a contributory negligence state, even 1% of fault for an accident will bar a plaintiff from financial recovery. Most states use some variation of the comparative negligence law.
Utah is a modified comparative negligence state. Under Utah Code 78B-5-818, a plaintiff’s comparative fault alone will not bar that person from financial recovery. The plaintiff’s fault, however, cannot exceed the fault of the defendant. Utah has a 50% bar on comparative negligence. If the courts find a plaintiff more than 50% at fault for causing the damages in question, the plaintiff will lose any right to recovery. With less than 50% of fault but still some comparative negligence, the plaintiff will receive a reduced recovery award.
How Can it Affect Personal Injury Claims?
Comparative negligence can have a major effect on a personal injury claim. It could reduce the plaintiff’s payout or eliminate the right to recover completely. In Utah, the courts will reduce a plaintiff’s compensatory award by an amount that is equivalent to his or her percentage of fault for the accident. For example, if a jury grants a plaintiff a $50,000 judgment award but a comparative negligence defense leads to 20% of fault with the plaintiff, the courts will reduce $50,000 by 20% ($10,000). The plaintiff in this example would receive $40,000 instead of the original $50,000 due to his or her comparative negligence.
If a defendant succeeds in proving a plaintiff was more than halfway responsible for the accident, the defendant will not have to pay anything in damages. Allotting more than 50% of fault to a plaintiff during an injury claim in Utah will bar that person from recovery. It is critical, therefore, for victims to hire personal injury lawyers to help them combat the comparative negligence defense. A lawyer can fight for maximum recovery by using proven strategies to reduce a plaintiff’s percentage of fault for an accident.
How Do You Calculate Comparative Negligence?
Determining fault is a difficult task during a personal injury claim. In most cases, the plaintiff and the defendant will not agree on fault. It will take investigations from parties such as law enforcement, insurance companies and law firms to determine fault. Both sides of the case will then present evidence to try to establish the other party’s negligence. A judge or jury will weigh the facts presented and determine whose story is more likely to be true than not true. Then, the judge or jury will allot a portion of fault to one or both parties. They may assign 100% of fault to the defendant and 0% to the plaintiff, a portion of fault to each, or some other variation.
Calculate your comparative negligence during a personal injury claim in Utah with help from an attorney. An attorney can review your case to help you look for possible signs or evidence of your comparative fault. During the discovery phase of a lawsuit, your Layton car accident lawyer can find out what evidence the other side of the case has against you. Using this information, your lawyer can estimate what a judge or jury might assign as your percentage of comparative fault to give you a realistic expectation of the potential value of your claim. Then, your lawyer can work hard to minimize your comparative fault and protect your right to recovery.