Most personal injury cases are built on the legal theory of negligence. Put simply, this theory holds that everyone has a duty to avoid or minimize the risk of causing injury to others. If they breach this duty, they act negligently. If their negligence causes injury to someone else, the injured party can hold them liable for their damages.
It’s relatively easy to see how this theory might apply in a case involving a two-car accident. Every driver has a duty to avoid careless driving that might cause an accident that could injure someone else. If a driver fails to stop at a stop sign, they are acting negligently. If their negligence causes an accident that hurts another driver, the injured driver can file a personal injury claim against the negligent driver to recover compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and other damages.
But what if the second driver also contributed to the accident? For instance, what if the second driver was speeding? Can they still recover compensation?
Under Mississippi law, the answer is yes, but with some limitations.
Traditionally, plaintiffs were barred from recovering any compensation if they bore any fault for the accident in which they were injured. This could lead to some results that struck the public as grossly unfair. In an effort to avoid injustice, Mississippi changed its laws to recognize a theory known as comparative negligence.
Under this theory, courts consider all the evidence and assign each party a share of the fault for the accident, represented as a percentage. If the negligence of the injured party contributed to the accident, they can recover compensation from the other party, but their compensation is reduced in proportion to their fault.
For example, after the two-car crash we described above, a court might decide that Driver A was 70% at fault and Driver B was 30% at fault. If Driver B was injured, they can recover compensation from Driver A, but their compensation will be reduced by 30%. If they suffered $100,000 in damages, the most they will be able to recover is $70,0000.
Is it worth it?
Mississippi law allows the injured to collect compensation even if they were more than 50% at fault for the accident in which they were injured. Of course, their compensation will be reduced in proportion to their share of the fault. Theoretically at least, a person who was 90% at fault could sue the other party and collect 10% of their damages in compensation.
Things get much more complicated in cases where more than two parties were at fault. For instance, after a multi-car pileup, it’s possible a court might divide the fault for the crash among three or more drivers.
Comparative negligence can lead to challenging court cases. However, when an injured person is dealing with enormous medical bills and other damages, even a reduced amount of compensation can be very helpful.