What Is Contributory Fault?

Tennessee has a fault-based system for negligence-based personal injury claims. The injured party must prove that the other party caused their injuries. The other party is not liable for your damages if you cannot prove the required legal elements of your case.

As part of a fault-based system, the injured party’s actions can impact how much they receive for damages in a personal injury case. In some situations, an injured party’s fault could bar them from receiving any damages for their claim. 

What Is Contributory Fault?

States follow different standards regarding contributory fault. One example, contributory negligence, bars an injured party from receiving compensation for damages if the party contributed even slightly to the cause of their injury. Four states and the District of Columbia apply this harsh rule in personal injury cases. 

Under contributory negligence, an injured person could be 1% to blame for causing a car accident that resulted in their injuries. Because they have some liability for causing the car crash, the injured party is barred from receiving any money for their damages. 

Another standard, followed in around 12 states, is called pure comparative negligence. With pure comparative negligence, the injured victim’s compensation is reduced based on their percentage of fault for the accident. For example, sharing 10% of the blame would reduce their damages by 10%.

Most states in the country follow a third standard called modified comparative negligence. This standard is similar to pure comparative negligence except that a bar is set, at which point the victim will be barred from receiving damages.

Tennessee Uses a Modified Comparative Negligence Standard 

Tennessee does not use contributory negligence, nor pure comparative negligence, for personal injury cases. Instead, the state adopted a modified comparative negligence standard for personal injury claims (see McIntyre v. Balentine, 833 S.W.2d 52).

Comparative negligence is the legal theory of apportioning damages based on a party’s degree of liability for causing an injury or accident. For example, suppose a jury awarded you $500,000 for damages caused by a truck accident

However, the jurors decided you were 20% to blame for causing the crash. Under comparative negligence, the court would reduce your award for damages by 20% or $100,000. 

Under pure comparative negligence laws, as noted above, an injured party could be mostly to blame for causing their injuries and still receive a portion of their damages. However, Tennessee’s modified comparative negligence standard sets a bar for recovery.

In Tennessee, if you are more than 49% to blame for causing your accident or injury, you cannot recover any money for your claim. It does not matter if you prove the other party contributed to the cause of your injury. Being 50% or more to blame bars you from recovering any money for damages. 

How Does an Insurance Company Use Comparative Negligence in My Nashville Personal Injury Case?

Insurance companies take advantage of any leverage they obtain to deny claims or undervalue damages. For example, an insurance adjuster may ask for a recorded interview to obtain information to process your insurance claim.

During the interview, the adjuster may spend a significant amount of time talking about your day. They might ask about what time you got up that morning, what you did before leaving the house, and did not leave the house on time. An innocent comment from you could be intentionally misconstrued to imply fault. 

You answer the questions honestly. For instance, you tell the adjuster you had to referee a fight between your children before you left home. Unfortunately, the argument continued in the car. 

The insurance company may imply that you were distracted while driving because your kids continued to argue in the car. Therefore, you were partly to blame for causing the car accident since you were distracted. 

Insurance adjusters are highly trained, skilled insurance professionals. They understand how to ask questions that could lead to an admission of something that could be construed to imply fault.

You can fight the allegations if you are being blamed for causing an accident. An experienced Nashville personal injury lawyer can help you present a solid case refuting the allegations of contributory fault.

How Can I Avoid Being Blamed for Causing My Personal Injury or Accident in a Nashville Personal Injury Case?

Protecting your rights after an accident begins with your actions after an injury or accident. Never admit fault or suggest that you could be partially to blame for causing an accident or injury. Instead, keep your statements brief and limit them to the facts.

Do not use social media or post information online. Insurance companies search the internet for information they can use against victims. Statements you post or comments on your posts could lead to allegations of fault.

Instead of trying to handle an insurance company by yourself, contact an attorney for help. Our personal injury lawyers in Nashville can help you avoid mistakes that could hurt your personal injury case. We also handle all matters related to insurance claims, including communicating with the insurance company, preparing settlement demand packages, and negotiating a fair settlement. 

Learn More During a Free Consultation With Our Nashville Personal Injury Lawyers

Our legal team at Labrum Law Firm Personal Injury Lawyers aggressively defends you against contributory fault allegations. Contact us today or call at (615) 685-8546 to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Nashville personal injury attorney. We will fight to get you the maximum compensation for your personal injury case.