Oregon Law: Contributory Negligence Vs. Comparative Negligence

Incidents that cause personal injuries often occur due to the careless or negligent actions of another party. However, determining fault in a personal injury incident is rarely cut and dry. In many cases, more than one party is to blame for a personal injury incident. Whether discussing vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, product liability claims, or other incidents, it is important to look at all parties and whether they share any fault. Two methods of doing this are called “contributory negligence” and “comparative negligence.”

What is contributory negligence?

Contributory negligence is a method for determining fault that states that if a plaintiff is negligent in any way for their injuries, they are barred from recovering any compensation. Contributory negligence has been abolished in most places across the country due to its seemingly unfair way of treating victims in an accident. This method of determining negligence will essentially keep a victim from recovering compensation for their losses, even if the at-fault party was 99% responsible for the incident.

What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a system that lays responsibility on at-fault parties based on their percentage of fault for the incident. This system prevents the harsh reality of a defendant completely let off the hook for an injury-causing incident simply because the other party shared a part of the blame. Even those partially at-fault can recover compensation, but the total amount of compensation they are awarded will be reduced based on their percentage of fault for the incident.

There are various types of comparative negligence laws that are used in jurisdictions across the US. In a pure comparative negligence system, an injury victim is able to collect damages even if they are up to 99% at fault for the incident. However, in a modified comparative negligence system, an injury victim will only be able to recover compensation if they are 51% or 50% or less at fault for the incident.

Oregon operates under a modified comparative negligence system in which a person is able to recover compensation for their injuries so long as they are 51% or less at fault for the incident.

For an example of how this works, let us suppose that Gina sustains a slip and fall injury at a grocery store after slipping on a spill that store employees knew about but failed to clean up. However, attorneys for the store argue that Gina is partially at fault for the incident because she was texting on her phone at the time she slipped and, had she not been texting, GIna would have seen the spill. In this scenario, suppose the case goes to trial and the jury determines that Gina should be awarded $10,000 and damages while also determining that she was 20% at fault for the incident. In this case, Gina would only recover $8,000 in total compensation.

Speak to an attorney for help

If you or somebody you care about has been injured due to the negligent actions of another, you should work with an attorney as soon as possible. For these cases, an attorney will have the resources and experience necessary to conduct a complete investigation into the incident in order to properly determine liability. A Portland personal injury attorney can negotiate with every party involved in an effort to secure maximum compensation on your behalf.