What is comparative negligence and is it the law in Indiana?

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2023 | Car Accidents, Injuries

People often treat liability claims as though they are black-and-white scenarios wherein one person is to blame and another is a victim, but situations are rarely that simple.

Obviously, there are plenty of scenarios whereby one person does something illegal or negligent, and someone else gets hurt. In cases with clear-cut fault, those who have been harmed by someone else can file insurance claims or even civil lawsuits to recoup their losses. However, many situations that lead to injuries and property damage expenses are not solely the fault of one party.

As a result, claims of comparative negligence could come into play if someone goes to court to pursue a personal injury claim and may have some partial responsibility for the situation in question.

What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is the legal concept that each party involved in a situation could potentially have contributed to its outcome. A crash caused by a drunk driver involving someone without their headlights on after dusk is a prime example.

The drunk driver should not have gotten behind the wheel while in a chemically-impaired state, but the person that they hit also should have had their headlights on and should have used a turn signal because they intended to turn left at a major intersection. The fault for the crash may ultimately still fall to the person who was drunk, but the courts may agree that the driver who did not use their lights and turn signals has some fault.

The courts will assign a specific percentage of fault under the Indiana comparative negligence statute. The modified comparative negligent law means that as long as that percentage is under 51%, the person pursuing the claim can still take the other party to court. However, the courts will reduce the compensation awarded to the plaintiff by the percentage of fault assigned to them for the incident.

Comparative negligence often comes into play in car crash scenarios, but it can also influence the outcome of premises liability claims and numerous other personal injury issues.

The burden of proof is on the defendant

If one party involved in an incident files a lawsuit against another, the party trying to lay the blame on the plaintiff will have to provide evidence for their claims. While the standard of proof is lower in civil court than in criminal court, there will need to be some kind of documentation affirming a defendant’s claim that the plaintiff contributed to the situation and is partially responsible for the outcome.

Learning more about Indiana’s personal injury laws can help people assert their rights in civil court with the assistance of a legal professional after car accidents or other fault-based incidents that result in physical harm.


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