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What is Comparative Fault?

When an accident occurs, drivers often start pointing fingers.

Deciding who is to blame in many situations, however, can be a difficult task. This is where comparative fault (or comparative negligence) comes into play.

Comparative negligence is “a rule of law applied in accident cases to determine responsibility and damages based on the negligence of every party directly involved in the accident.”

For example, Susan is about to turn left at an intersection. Her light is green, but she is supposed to yield to oncoming traffic. She sees Bob approaching and thinks she has time to turn, so she does. Bob hits Susan’s car as he crosses the intersection. Susan initially believes the accident is her fault; however, Bob was going 20 mph over the speed limit. In this situation, neither driver is clearly at fault since both were breaking the  law when the accident occurred.

Types of Comparative Fault

There are three types of comparative fault: pure contributory negligence, pure comparative fault and modified comparative fault. Depending on which types of fault are recognized by the state, drivers can collect a decent amount in damages or end up with nothing.

Pure contributory negligence is only recognized in five states and is the most stringent of the three. With this type, if an injured party is declared even the slightest bit at fault for the accident, they cannot collect any damages.

Pure comparative fault is recognized by thirteen states. With this type, the injured person can collect damages even if they’re mostly at fault, but the amount awarded is reduced by the percentage of fault. For example, if the injured person was determined to have incurred $5,000 in damages but was 80% at fault for the accident, they would only be awarded $1,000.

The majority of states—33 to be exact—follow the modified comparative fault model. Modified comparative fault is divided into two categories:

  1. 50 Percent Bar Rule. The injured party can collect damages if they are less than 50% at fault, but if they are declared 50% at fault or higher, they cannot collect any damages. Additionally, those who do collect damages are awarded a reduced amount based on the percentage of fault. Colorado is one of the twelve states that recognizes the 50 percent bar rule.

  2. 51 Percent Bar Rule. This is essentially the same as the 50 percent bar rule. However, the injured person can collect if they are 50% or less at fault but not 51% or higher. This rule also reduces the amount an injured person is awarded based on the percentage of fault.

Comparative Fault in Colorado

Since Colorado falls into the 50 percent modified comparative fault category, if you bring a personal injury case to court and are declared 50% or more at fault, you would not receive any compensation.

Comparative fault can be very confusing and difficult to work through. If you’re dealing with this type of case, make sure to consult with an experienced Colorado attorney who can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact Mack Babcock for a free consultation and check out these articles for more information:

  1. What to Do After a Car Accident
  2. Colorado Car Accident Cases and Statute of Limitations
  3. 3 Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

This article and all content at InjuryLawColorado.com is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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