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Can a plaintiff still recover damages if she is partly at fault?

There are often two sides to every story. In the legal system, Pottsville residents on opposing sides of a lawsuit are each given the opportunity to tell their side of the story to a judge or jury.

When faced with these conflicting stories, it can be difficult to determine what really happened. For example, when each party blames the other for causing a car crash, it can be tough for a jury to determine the true cause of the accident.

In many cases, a jury may find that both sides played some part in causing the accident. One side may have been speeding, for instance, while the other failed to yield.

Under Pennsylvania law, a jury’s determination that both sides were partially at fault in an accident can have consequences to the plaintiff’s ability to recover damages. Generally, a plaintiff who was also negligent in an accident can still recover damages from the defendant, so long as the plaintiff’s negligence was not greater than the negligence of the defendant. For instance, if the jury determines that the plaintiff was 30 percent at fault and the defendant was 70 percent at fault, the court can still place legal liability on the defendant for the crash and award damages.

The plaintiff’s partial fault has an impact on the amount of those damages, however, as the plaintiff’s damages are typically reduced in proportion to the amount of the negligence attributed to the plaintiff. In other words, a plaintiff who is 30 percent at fault for a crash will have his or her damages reduced by 30 percent to account for this comparative negligence.

Those injured in a car crash should understand how the rules of comparative negligence work, and whether there are circumstances at issue that could lead to a finding of fault against the plaintiff. By understanding the facts and the law, the plaintiff can present the best possible case and obtain the most compensation possible for the accident.

Source: Pennsylvania General Assembly, “7102. Comparative negligence,” accessed on Jan. 23, 2016