State By State Negligence Laws

In the United States, the principle of negligence plays a crucial role in personal injury cases. Each state adheres to a specific standard for their negligence laws, either contributory or comparative negligence, which impacts the outcome of these cases.

What Are Negligence Laws?

Negligence laws are a set of legal principles which dictate the process and circumstances under which individuals or organizations may be held legally responsible for harm or damages caused to others due to their failure to exercise appropriate care. These negligence laws encompass a wide range of situations, such as personal injury cases, vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, and much more.

The crux of negligence laws lie in determining whether the defendant’s conduct fell short of how a reasonable person would have acted in the same situation, leading to the injury or damage. Different states follow different forms of negligence laws, namely, pure contributory negligence, pure comparative fault, or modified comparative negligence.

Negligence Laws by State in all 50 States in the United States

Types of Negligence Laws

The three categories of negligence laws are listed below:

  1. Contributory Negligence:  In states that follow the rule of contributory negligence, plaintiffs are completely barred from recovering damages if they are found to be even slightly at fault, typically even 1% at fault. This rule is considered harsh as it doesn’t allow for any degree of fault from the plaintiff’s side. Only 4 states and the District of Columbia follow contributory negligence: Alabama, D.C., Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.
  2. Comparative Negligence:  This rule is followed by 45 states and is further divided into pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence (with one subcategory for slight versus gross negligence).
    • Pure Comparative Negligence:  Allows plaintiffs to seek compensation regardless of their level of fault in the accident. The amount recoverable is reduced based on their degree of fault. For example, if the plaintiff is 75% responsible for the accident, they can still recover damages limited to the 25% attributed to the other party’s fault. This rule is more forgiving towards plaintiffs, allowing them to recover a portion of their damages, even with substantial fault in the accident. Pure comparative negligence is followed by 12 states.
    • Modified Comparative Negligence:  In modified comparative negligence, a plaintiff cannot recover damages if they are found to be 50% or 51% or more at fault (depending on the state’s specific rule). If their degree of fault is less, they can recover damages, with the award reduced in proportion to their level of fault. Modified comparative negligence is followed by 33 states.
      • Slight versus Gross Negligence:  Only South Dakota practices a unique concept called “slight versus gross negligence.” It operates under the rule of “Modified Comparative Negligence”, but differentiates between slight and gross negligence. This means that if a plaintiff’s negligence in an accident is deemed slight and the defendant’s negligence is deemed gross, the plaintiff’s slight negligence will not bar them from recovering damages. However, if the plaintiff’s negligence is more than ‘slight,’ it could prevent them from recovering damages.

What are the 51% and 50% Rules Related to Negligence?

The 51% and 50% rules are associated with the modified comparative negligence doctrine practiced in many state negligence laws across the US.

  • 51% Rule:  Under this rule, a plaintiff cannot recover damages if they are found to be 51% (or more) responsible for the incident causing harm. This means that a party must be less at fault than any other party or parties involved to receive compensation. If the plaintiff’s fault is equal to or exceeds this threshold, they are barred from recovery.
  • 50% Rule:  Contrarily, the 50% rule bars a plaintiff from recovering damages if they are found to be 50% (or more) at fault. Here, the plaintiff must be less at fault than all other parties combined to recover damages.

In both cases, if the plaintiff is eligible for damage recovery, the compensation they receive is reduced in proportion to their degree of fault. For instance, if a plaintiff is 30% at fault and has $10,000 in damages, they would receive $7,000 after their degree of fault is factored in.

State By State Negligence Laws

Below, you will find a list of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with their corresponding negligence laws related to personal injury, and a link to the relevant state law.

State Negligence Type Statute Code or Precedent Plaintiff’s Ability to Recover Damages
Alabama Contributory negligence Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 8(c) No recovery if contributed even 1% to the accident
Alaska Pure comparative negligence Alaska Statute 09.17.06009.17.080 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
Arizona Pure comparative negligence Arizona Revised Statutes § 12-2505 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
Arkansas Modified comparative negligence Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-64-122 No recovery if 50% or more at-fault
California Pure comparative negligence Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3d 804, 532 P.2d 1226 (1975) May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
Colorado Modified comparative negligence Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) § 13-21-111 No recovery if 50% or more at-fault
Connecticut Modified comparative negligence Connecticut General Statutes § 52-572h(b) No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Delaware Modified comparative negligence 10 Del. C. § 8132 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
District of Columbia Contributory negligence Wingfield v. People’s Drug Store, 379 A.2d 685 (1977) No recovery if contributed even 1% to the accident
Florida Pure comparative negligence Florida Statute § 768.81(2) May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
Georgia Modified comparative negligence Georgia Codes § 51-12-33 and § 51-11-7 No recovery if 50% or more at-fault (avoidance defense under § 51-11-7)
Hawaii Modified comparative negligence Hawaii Revised Statutes § 663-31 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Idaho Modified comparative negligence Idaho Code § 6-801 No recovery if 50% or more at-fault
Illinois Modified comparative negligence Illinois Compiled Statutes (735 ILCS 5/2-1116) No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Indiana Modified comparative negligence Indiana Code § 34-51-2-5 and § 34-51-2-6 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Iowa Modified comparative negligence Iowa Code § 668.3(1)(b) No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Kansas Modified comparative negligence Kansas Statutes Annotated § 60-258a(a) No recovery if 50% or more at-fault
Kentucky Pure comparative negligence Kentucky Revised Statutes § 411.182 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
Louisiana Pure comparative negligence Louisiana Civil Code Article 2323 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
Maine Modified comparative negligence Maine Revised Statutes § 156 No recovery if 50% or more at-fault
Maryland Contributory negligence Garrett County Maryland v. Bell Atlantic, 695 A.2d 171 (1977) No recovery if contributed even 1% to the accident
Massachusetts Modified comparative negligence General Laws of Massachusetts Ch. 231 § 85 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Michigan Modified comparative negligence Michigan Compiled Laws 600.2957 et. seq.; MCL 600.6304; and MCL 600.2959 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Minnesota Modified comparative negligence Minnesota Statutes § 604.01(1) No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Mississippi Pure comparative negligence Mississippi Code Annotated § 11-7-15 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
Missouri Pure comparative negligence Gustafson v. Benda, 661 S.W.2d 11 (1983); Missouri Revised Statutes § 537.765 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
Montana Modified comparative negligence Montana Code Annotated § 27-1-702 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Nebraska Modified comparative negligence Nebraska Revised Statutes § 25-21,185.09; Neb. R.S. § 25-21,185.12 No recovery if 50% or more at-fault (assumption of risk affirmative defense under § 25-21,185.12)
Nevada Modified comparative negligence Nevada Revised Statutes § 41.141 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
New Hampshire Modified comparative negligence New Hampshire Revised Statutes § 507:7-d No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
New Jersey Modified comparative negligence New Jersey Statutes § 2A:15-5.1 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
New Mexico Pure comparative negligence New Mexico Statutes Annotated § 41-4-1 et seq; Scott v. Rizzo, 634 P.2d 1234 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
New York Pure comparative negligence New York Civil Practice Law & Rules § 1411 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
North Carolina Contributory negligence Smith v. Fiber Controls Corp., 268 S.E.2d 504 (1980) No recovery if contributed even 1% to the accident
North Dakota Modified comparative negligence North Dakota Century Code § 32-03.2-02 No recovery if 50% or more at-fault
Ohio Modified comparative negligence Ohio Revised Code § 2315.33 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Oklahoma Modified comparative negligence Oklahoma Statutes § 23-13 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Oregon Modified comparative negligence Oregon Revised Statutes § 31.600 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Pennsylvania Modified comparative negligence Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 7102 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Rhode Island Pure comparative negligence Rhode Island General Laws § 9-20-4 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
South Carolina Modified comparative negligence Ross v. Paddy, 340 S.C. 428, 532 S.E.2d 612 (2000) No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
South Dakota Slight versus gross negligence (an alternative version of modified comparative negligence) South Dakota Codified Laws § 20-9-2 May recover only if plaintiff negligence is “slight”, and defendant negligence is “gross”
Tennessee Modified comparative negligence McIntyre v. Balentine, 833 S.W.2d 52 (1992) No recovery if 50% or more at-fault
Texas Modified comparative negligence Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 33.001-33.017 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Utah Modified comparative negligence Utah Code Annotated § 78B-5-818(2) No recovery if 50% or more at-fault
Vermont Modified comparative negligence Vermont Statutes Annotated Tit. 12, § 1036 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Virginia Contributory negligence Baskett v. Banks, 45 S.E.2d 173 (1947) No recovery if contributed even 1% to the accident
Washington Pure comparative negligence Revised Code of Washington § 4.22.005-015 May recover even if up to 99% at-fault, though recovery is reduced by percentage of fault
West Virginia Modified comparative negligence West Virginia Code § 55-7-13a and § 55-7-13c(c) No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Wisconsin Modified comparative negligence Wisconsin Statutes § 895.045(1) No recovery if 51% or more at-fault
Wyoming Modified comparative negligence Wyoming Statutes § 1-1-109 No recovery if 51% or more at-fault

 

 

How is Negligence Determined in Personal Injury Cases?

Determining negligence in personal injury cases generally involves four key elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

  • Duty:  This refers to the responsibility one party has to avoid causing harm to another. For instance, drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws to prevent harm to others on the road.
  • Breach:  A breach is a violation of the duty of care. If a party fails to behave as a reasonable person would in a similar situation, they’ve breached their duty. For example, if a driver runs a red light, they have breached their duty to obey traffic laws.
  • Causation:  This element links the breach of duty directly to the plaintiff’s injury. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions (or lack thereof) directly caused their injury.
  • Damages:  Finally, the plaintiff must show that they suffered harm as a result of the defendant’s actions. This could include physical injury, damage to property, or financial loss.

The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must establish all four elements to demonstrate that the defendant was negligent and claim different types of personal injury damages. The specifics of these elements can vary by state, so state negligence laws and precedents greatly influence negligence determinations.

Closing Thoughts on State Negligence Laws

Negligence laws provide a general framework for understanding how different states affect compensation recovery. However, it’s important to note that each state has unique limitations and provisions that may hinder victims from receiving the compensation they rightfully deserve.

For example, some states exclude product liability claims from these conventional negligence laws, as they have their own specific regulations. Additionally, the intricacies of a state’s fault systems can further complicate the process of filing a claim or seeking compensation.

Therefore, we strongly recommend seeking the guidance of an experienced attorney to address any questions you may have regarding the claims process in your specific state and its negligence laws.

No Win No Fee for Personal Injury Case - Negligence Laws by State (2023): Contributory versus Comparative Negligence

Recent Post

Photo of car accident on road. How to Determine Who is at Fault in a Texas Car Accident

What to Do After A Car Accident in Texas

After a car accident, it is essential to remain composed and follow certain steps to safeguard your rights. These steps will not only ensure your safety but also help you

Read More

Mallet

How Does the Personal Injury Claims Process Work?

Suppose you or a loved one have been injured by some else’s negligence in an accident like a motor vehicle crash, workplace accident, or slip and fall. You might decide

Read More

Car Wreck Lawyer

When To Get A Car Wreck Lawyer

Following a car accident, you may be asking yourself, “When do I need a car wreck lawyer?” The answer: It is always worth contacting a car accident attorney. Start by

Read More

Personal Injury Claims

How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take in Texas?

The first question that many new clients ask when they are beginning the process of hiring a personal injury claims lawyer is, “how long is my personal injury case going

Read More

concept of "Time Passing" with the changing seasons displayed in a single frame.

How Long Do Personal Injury Claims Take?

When it comes to personal injury claims, one of the most common questions is, “How long will my personal injury claim take?” Understanding the personal injury case timeline is important

Read More

Lawyer meeting with couple AdobeStock 292580462

How to Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Who’s Right for You

Finding the best personal injury lawyer for your case is the most critical factor in the success of your case and the level of your settlement. A study published by

Read More

Personal Injury Settlement

Texas Personal Injury Claims: Which Counties are Most Favorable to Plaintiffs

Personal injury claims in Texas must be filed in the county in which the accident occurred. However, there are some unique circumstances which may allow for a choice of venue

Read More

Thompson Law Guarantee

Thompson Law receives an attorney fee and you pay no legal fees as our client unless we pay you. Thompson Law has 350 years of combined experience in legal representation and has won over $1.8 billion dollars in cash settlements for our clients. We master the art of managing client cases with empathy, compassion, respect and, of course, prodigious skill. Contact us today for a free, risk-free consultation to discuss your accident and your options.

State law limits the time you have to file a claim after an auto accident. If you have been injured in an accident, call now to get the help you need.