Contributory Fault

We like to think of injury accidents as clear and simple. There’s the good guy, and there’s the bad guy. Consequently, the bad guy pays the good guy for the injuries they caused. 

In real life, however, it’s not always so simple. Sometimes, the parties share blame for an accident. Contributory fault is all about distributing liability in situations like these.

Negligence Claims

Negligence Claims

Negligence is a legal term meaning something like ‘carelessness’. In most other states, contributory fault applies only when more than both parties are negligent, not when one party acted intentionally.


Ohio recognizes three forms of damages that can justify monetary compensation: 

  • Economic damages: Medical bills, lost earnings, and other easy-to-count losses. 
  • Non-economic damages: Intangible losses such as emotional distress or pain and suffering.
  • Punitive damages: An extra amount designed not to compensate the injured party, but to punish the defendant for particularly outrageous behavior–drunken driving, perhaps.

Courts distribute economic damages and non-economic damages according to percentage of fault.

Types of Contributory Fault

States apply different forms of contributory fault (or comparative negligence, as it is sometimes referred to), as outlined below:

Contributory Negligence

Under contributory negligence, you cannot collect a dime in compensation unless you are 0% at fault. Even 1% fault will disqualify you from receiving any compensation at all. Only four states and the District of Columbia apply this harsh doctrine. 

Pure Comparative Fault

Under pure comparative fault, each at-fault party loses whatever percentage of their damages equals their percentage of fault. If they are 40% at fault, for example, they lose 40% of their damages. Around 13 states follow this framework.

Modified Comparative Fault

Modified comparative fault works like pure comparative fault, but with one extra rule: there is a cutoff percentage. If a party’s percentage of fault equals or exceeds a certain number, they become ineligible for any compensation at all.

There are two primary forms of modified comparative fault. One bars the recovering damages once the party’s level of fault reaches 50% or higher, and the other sets that percentage at 51 instead. 

Most states follow one of these two forms of modified comparative fault. 

Slight/Gross Negligence

South Dakota’s comparative fault system is unique among the states. It works like contributory negligence, except that the injured party can collect compensation as long as they were only slightly negligent while the other party acted with gross (extreme) negligence.

Examples of Comparative Fault Scenarios

Following are some common examples of scenarios that often invoke comparative fault:

  • Car accident: Driver A runs a red light while Driver B was driving at night with only one headlight working, resulting in a collision.
  • Slip and fall accident in a restaurant: A customer slips on a recently mopped floor where no warning signs were placed. Meanwhile, the customer was intoxicated.
  • Boating accident: A boat collides with another boat due to the operator’s inattention and the other boat’s lack of lighting.
  • Dog bite: A dog owner lets their dog run free, and it bites a passerby who was provoking it.

Thousands of other shared fault scenarios are possible.

An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help Shift the Odds of Victory in Your Favor

No ethical personal injury attorney will offer you any kind of guarantee about the outcome of your case. What they can do, however, is explore your options and give an idea of what they think your chances are. 

With enough information, they might also be able to estimate the value of your claim fairly quickly. It’s best to involve an attorney early in the process. Contact a car injury attorney at Mani Ellis & Layne Accident & Injury Lawyers at (614) 587 8423 for a free consultation. Remember that if you don’t win, you don’t pay any legal fees.