When a person is injured by another’s negligence, he or she may recover damages in a personal injury suit. But fault in an accident is not always so clear-cut. Sometimes, the injured party was also negligent, and contributed to the harm. Michigan uses the doctrine of comparative fault to determine how much a negligent accident victim may recover in damages.
Historically, Michigan used the doctrine of contributory negligence to address this issue. Under contributory negligence, if an accident is caused in part by the plaintiff’s actions, the plaintiff will not be able to recover any damages in compensation for his or her injuries.
Thus, if, for example, a plaintiff pedestrian darts into an intersection and is hit and injured by a speeding driver, the pedestrian will not be able to recover any damages because she was contributorily negligent. But Michigan has abandoned the contributory negligence doctrine, and the plaintiff’s negligence is no longer a complete bar to recovery in Michigan.
Michigan now instead uses the theory of comparative fault. Comparative fault is a partial defense to negligence. It means that the plaintiff’s recovery of damages is reduced proportionally by the amount of the plaintiff’s fault. Thus, if a plaintiff was 25 percent at fault in an accident, and damages were assessed at $100,000, the plaintiff could recover 75 percent of that, or $75,000.
Michigan generally uses pure comparative fault. This means that the plaintiff will always be able to recover damages for an accident caused at least in part by someone else’s negligence, no matter how much the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the harm. As long as the defendant’s negligence also contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff may recover compensation from the defendant for his or her harm. For example, if a plaintiff was 90 percent at fault in an accident, and damages were calculated to be $100,000, the plaintiff could recover 10 percent of the total amount, or $10,000.
In some cases, a plaintiff is more than 50 percent at fault in the accident. For economic damages, Michigan uses the pure comparative fault analysis, so the plaintiff can recover compensation even if the accident was caused over 50 percent by his or her own negligence. Economic damages are compensation for the injured party’s financial expenses from the accident. For example, this may include medical bills, lost wages, or property damage. Thus, if a plaintiff suffered $50,000 in economic damages, but was 80 percent at fault, he or she could still recover $10,000.
But for noneconomic damages, Michigan law bars recovery if the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault. Noneconomic damages include compensation for nonmonetary losses, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, or mental distress. For example, if the plaintiff suffered an additional $50,000 in noneconomic damages, because the plaintiff was 80 percent at fault, he or she cannot recover compensation for any of the noneconomic damages.
If you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation even if you were partly at fault. Please contact a Clayton Township personal injury attorney at Nickola Law for a free phone consultation.
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