Contributory Fault

If you’ve suffered an injury in St. Louis, Missouri, you may be entitled to financial compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. For your case to be successful, however, you must demonstrate to the court that the negligence of the defendant in your case caused your injuries. 

In some cases, though, the plaintiff bears some responsibility for his or her own injuries. In these types of situations, the doctrine of contributory fault comes into play. In this article, we examine contributory fault and discuss the impact it could have on your personal injury case in the state of Missouri.   

Negligence in Missouri

To understand contributory fault, it is first necessary to have a basic understanding of negligence in a personal injury case. In the State of Missouri, it is necessary to demonstrate the existence of the following elements to prove a defendant’s negligence in a personal injury lawsuit:

  • Duty: As a plaintiff, you first must show that the defendant in your case owed you a duty of some kind. Specifically, you must prove that the defendant owed you a duty to act as a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances.
  • Breach: Next, you must demonstrate to the court that the defendant breached his or her duty to you.
  • Causation: After establishing the above two elements of negligence, you must prove that the defendant’s breach caused you some type of harm.
  • Damages: Finally, you must show that you suffered an injury of some sort due to the defendant’s behavior. 

Not every element will be at issue in every personal injury case – it may only be one or two.

Contributory Fault Overview

Even if the defendant’s negligence caused your injury, your own negligence can affect the outcome of your personal injury case. However, the effect that your negligence has on your case depends on where you live. 

Different Kinds of Contributory Fault

Different states follow different contributory fault systems. The most common systems of contributory fault are discussed below. 

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is the strictest form of contributory fault. Under the contributory negligence system, a plaintiff who is in any way responsible for his or her injury may not succeed in a personal injury action. 

This applies even if the plaintiff is only 1% at fault. In other words, under the system of contributory negligence, a plaintiff’s negligence completely bars him or her from recovery in a personal injury case. Only a handful of states use this system.  

Pure Comparative Fault

Under the doctrine of pure comparative fault, which can be seen as the opposite of contributory negligence, the court divides damages between a plaintiff and defendant based on their respective percentages of fault. 

Under this system, a plaintiff may recover damages even if the defendant is only one percent at fault for an accident. Missouri operates under a system of pure comparative fault. 

Types of Modified Comparative Fault 

A number of states have adopted various modified comparative fault systems. Common systems of modified comparative fault include: 

Fifty Percent Comparative Fault

Under the fifty percent comparative fault system, the parties in a personal injury case are held liable for their respective percentages of fault. However, if the court determines that the plaintiff’s percentage of fault for the accident is fifty percent or more, then he or she may not recover in the case. 

Fifty-One Percent Comparative Fault

The most widespread system of comparative fault is the fifty-one percent comparative fault system. Under this comparative fault system, a plaintiff can’t recover if he or she is found to be fifty-one percent or more at fault for the accident. However, a plaintiff under this system can recover if he or she is fifty percent or less at fault for the accident.

Hybrid Systems

Some states use various hybrid systems of comparative fault. For example, Washington, D.C.  operates under a hybrid system of contributory fault. In most types of cases, it applies the standard of contributory negligence. 

However, if a pedestrian or bicyclist is injured and can prove the defendant’s negligence, then he or she is eligible to recover damages if his or her percentage of negligence is less than the defendant’s percentage of negligence.

Contact a St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer

Whether you’ve been injured in a car accident, motorcycle accident, or any other kind of accident in Missouri, Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers are here to help. Established in 2010, our experienced attorneys serve accident victims in St. Louis during their most difficult times. 

We always put our clients first at Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers. Since our inception, our St. Louis personal injury attorneys, with over 100 years of combined legal experience, have recovered in excess of $50,000,000 for our injured clients and their families. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation at (314) 444-4444.