Comparative Negligence Law in Massachusetts

Can I Recover for an Accident If I Was also At-Fault? Massachusetts Comparative Negligence Laws

Almost all personal injury cases in Massachusetts, whether it involves a slip and fall, a medical error, or a car accident, require a showing of negligence. Negligence occurs when an individual, or a company that owes a duty to another person fails to exercise the level of care required under the circumstances and as a result causes injury or harm to some other person.

For example, everyone who a drives a motor vehicle in the state of Massachusetts owes a duty to other drivers and the public in general to exercise a certain level of care in order to prevent harm to others. This may include not drinking while driving or texting while driving. If a driver fails to exercise the degree of care required under the circumstances and as a result causes an accident that harms another person, he or she can be found negligent and will be legally responsible for any damages or injuries caused by their negligence.

But What Happens if the Other Party also Contributed to the Accident in Some Way or Was at Least, Partially at Fault?

Massachusetts’ comparative negligence law is applied in all personal injury lawsuits. The doctrine Of “comparative negligence” determines the degree of fault for all parties involved in a personal injury claim. Under Massachusetts’ comparative negligence doctrine, the award for damages the plaintiff may receive is reduced based on his/her degree of fault.

A plaintiff can recover damages for his/her injuries if he/she is less than 51% at fault for the accident. If his/her percentage of fault is above 50%, he/she will be barred from recovery. Applying the comparative negligence doctrine is not always easy. When there is a clear disparity regarding the degree of negligence, a jury may conclude that the plaintiff is more at fault and unable to recover.

Below are a few scenarios in which the comparative negligence doctrine is applied:

Example 1

An intoxicated driver is driving on the highway and is rear ended by a speeding driver. How should fault be assigned under this scenario? The intoxicated driver may be less at fault.

The intoxicated driver can recover damages if he can prove that had the other driver not been speeding, he would not have been rear ended. Damages will be proportionate to the degree of each driver’s negligence.

Example 2

Tracey was food shopping in a local grocery store. Before entering the store, there was a sign displayed informing customers of slippery floors on various aisles. While entering the produce isle, Tracey slips and falls on a slippery substance and breaks her arm. Tracey files a personal injury claim against the store.

How will comparative negligence come into play? While it is unlikely that Tracey will be barred from recovering damages, she may face some apportionment of fault for the incident since the store can show that it had posted warnings near the area where the fall took place. Thus, if a jury awards Tracy $200,000 for her slip and fall injuries but finds that Tracey was 20% percent at fault, her award will be reduced by 20% to account for her own comparative negligence in connection with the fall.

Example 3

A driver is speeding through a neighborhood. The driver smashes into an SUV exiting a driveway. Can the driver in the SUV recover damages? Yes. It is likely that the driver can recover damages if she can prove that the speeding driver’s negligence was the direct cause of the accident. The owner of the SUV will also have to prove that his fault for any injury, is less that the speeding driver’s.

Hire a MA Personal Injury Lawyer

The Massachusetts personal injury lawyers at Curran & Desharnais, P.C. handle serious personal injury cases including claims for medical malpractice, hospital negligence, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall injuries, construction site injuries, nursing home injuries, wrongful death and more. Our law office is based in Weymouth, but our personal injury and wrongful death law practice is statewide. Our law office has successfully represented numerous clients throughout Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area and we are available 24/7 to discuss your claim and our consultation is always free. Call us today at 781-277-3262 to discuss your claim.

If you have suffered injuries as a result of the negligent or reckless actions of someone else, you have legal rights that must be protected.

Hiring a skilled personal injury attorney is an important first step to help you recover the compensation that you are entitled to.