Negligence is at the center of most personal injury claims. Negligence is the failure to act with reasonable care. From a legal perspective, negligence can place liability (legal and financial responsibility) on someone for another person’s injuries after an accident. Arizona abides by a doctrine known as the comparative negligence law, which states that an injured victim may still recover financial compensation even if he or she is partly responsible for an accident.
Comparative negligence refers to a victim’s degree of fault for an accident or injury due to his or her own negligence. Not all Scottsdale personal injury lawsuits are black and white, with a defendant that is 100 percent responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. In some cases, both parties share fault for the accident. Most states have passed comparative negligence laws to determine whether the plaintiff can still recover financial compensation in these situations. Arizona is one of them.
Arizona’s comparative negligence law is found in the Revised Statutes Section 12-2505. This law states that if a jury believes there are grounds to apply the comparative negligence defense, this will not bar the claimant’s action, “but the full damages shall be reduced in proportion to the relative degree of the claimant’s fault which is a proximate cause of the injury or death, if any.” In other words, a victim’s compensatory award will be reduced in proportion to his or her degree of fault for the injury being claimed.
Arizona law states that the defense of comparative negligence is in all cases a question of fact that must be left to a jury. The jury will hear both sides of a case, including the defendant’s grounds for arguing that the plaintiff caused or contributed to his or her own injuries. If the jury decides to apply the comparative negligence defense, this will be taken into account when awarding damages to the plaintiff.
If you are found to have contributed to your own injuries as a claimant during a personal injury claim in Arizona, your financial recovery will be reduced accordingly. If it is determined by the jury that you were 30 percent at fault, for example, the value of your settlement or judgment award would be reduced by a corresponding 30 percent. In this example, a $60,000 recovery would be reduced by 30 percent of comparative fault ($18,000) for a total of $42,000 awarded to the plaintiff.
There are two types of comparative negligence laws: pure and modified. In pure comparative negligence states, there is no cap on the amount of negligence that can be assigned to a plaintiff to remain eligible for financial compensation. Even with 99 percent of fault for an injury, a plaintiff in a pure comparative negligence state will still be eligible for 1 percent of a compensatory award.
In a modified comparative negligence state, on the other hand, the right to recover is capped at a certain percentage. If the plaintiff is found to be more at fault than the maximum percentage allowed, he or she will lose the right to recover compensation. Most states with caps place the maximum between 49 and 51 percent of fault. Arizona is a pure comparative negligence state, however, meaning there is no cap on the ability to recover financial compensation.
While your own degree of fault for an accident might not bar you from making a financial recovery in Arizona, it can drastically reduce the value of your settlement. This is why it is important to retain an attorney to help you argue against the comparative negligence defense if it arises during your claim. An attorney can help you establish that the defendant is more at fault for your injury than you are using evidence such as accident reports and testimony from qualified experts. This will help you maximize your financial recovery as much as possible.
For more information about this defense during your claim, contact an attorney at Stone Rose Law.