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What Happens If A Victim Is Partially Responsible In An Injury Case?

The feeling that comes from being partly blamed for an incident that left you hurt can be brutal. However, that doesn't mean you automatically lose any chance at filing an insurance claim or suing. This how a personal injury lawyer looks at cases involving split responsibility.

Partial Responsibility Is Normal

It's worth taking a second to recognize that it's perfectly normal for both parties in a case to have some responsibility for what happened. Very little in life is 100% one person's fault. If someone was goofing around on a stairway and the handrail failed, for example, it's reasonable to consider that the victim contributed a bit to the incident. Likewise, it's reasonable to still believe that a handrail shouldn't fail just because someone was having a bit of fun. Both things can be true, and it doesn't nullify a victim's right to file a claim.

Responsibility Is Not the Same as Liability

When a personal injury attorney assesses a case, they also have to differentiate responsibility from liability. The law cares about liability, and it involves more than who did or didn't do what and when these things happened.

Liability is grounded in what the law calls a duty of care. This is the duty people and organizations have to ensure that they take reasonable steps to prevent others from suffering injuries under predictable circumstances.

In the example involving a handrail, whoever owns the property has a duty to make sure the handrails there are in good shape. This is why handrails are made from sturdy materials, it's also why people replace ones that get rusty. It's reasonable for a maintenance person to check the handrails occasionally. Similarly, a reasonable person would expect the owner or manager to send a maintenance professional to check a rail if someone reported a problem.

Contributory Negligence

With all of that in mind, there are still scenarios where the victim might have partially contributed to what happened. If that's the case, the state's laws become very important.

All states subtract the percentage of the victim's liability from any compensation they might receive. If you contributed 20% of the negligence in a case where you won and asked for $100,000 in damages, for example, you'd receive $80,000 in compensation.

Most states require the defendant to bear the majority of the liability or else no compensation is awarded. This means a victim who was 75% liable would receive nothing. However, you should contact a personal injury lawyer to learn what the rules are where the incident occurred.

For more information, contact a local personal injury lawyer.