Most car accident lawsuits are based on the tort of negligence. Establishing liability in these cases is fairly straightforward when the defendant is clearly to blame for the plaintiff’s harm, but things become more complicated when both parties are at fault. In these situations, the plaintiff’s recovery will be based on either the doctrine of contributory negligence or the doctrine of comparative negligence. In a state that follows the contributory negligence doctrine, any negligent act by the plaintiff will prevent them from recovering damages. Ohio is one of the 46 states that follow some form of the comparative negligence doctrine.
The comparative negligence doctrine allows plaintiffs who acted negligently to recover damages, but it reduces the amount they are awarded to reflect their degree of fault. This means that juries must first determine the appropriate damages and then allocate blame. If a jury determines that $50,000 is what should be awarded to compensate a plaintiff for their harm and then concludes that the plaintiff was 30% responsible for causing the accident that injured them, the damages awarded will be reduced by $15,000.
Pure and modified comparative negligence
In states that take the pure comparative negligence approach, personal injury plaintiffs can recover damages even if they are found to be mostly at fault. If the defendant in a car accident lawsuit in one of these states was 1% to blame, the plaintiff could recover 1% of their losses. Ohio is one of the 33 states that takes the modified comparative negligence approach.
Car accident victims who file personal injury lawsuits in Ohio are awarded reduced damages when juries determine that they share some of the fault. Ohio follows the modified comparative negligence doctrine, which means plaintiffs are barred from recovering damages if they are found to be more than 50% responsible for causing the accidents that led to their injuries.