Modified Comparative Negligence Laws: 51% Rule and Damages
When a serious accident occurs and a personal injury claim is filed, the insurance adjuster will be tasked with determining who is to blame for the accident. If a personal injury lawsuit is filed and taken to court, a jury will determine the percentage the negligence based on the evidence presented at trial.
Determining the percentage of negligence of each party is vital, as it determines who is eligible to recover compensation for their accident damages and just how much they can recover.
Since many times more than one party causes an accident, each state has established its own negligence laws on how it deals with injury claims involving more than one at-fault party. States that follow comparative negligence allow an accident victim who contributed in part to the accident to still recover some compensation but it all depends on their assigned percentage of fault.
Hawaii Negligence Laws: Comparative Negligence
Hawaii’s modified comparative negligence system, also known as the 51% rule, mandates that the injured victim can recover damages through a personal injury claim only if they were 50% or less responsible for contributing to their injuries. If they were 51% or more responsible, they would not be eligible to collect damages at all.
Consequently, the amount of damages you would be eligible for under the comparative negligence rules would be reduced by your degree of fault. For example, suppose you were 40% responsible for the injuries you suffered in a serious car accident. If the damages awarded totaled $100,000, your award would be reduced by 40% and you would only actually recover $60,000.
Just as it’s up to insurance adjusters or a jury to determine who caused the accident, it’s also up to them to allocate percentages of fault to each party under the comparative negligence system. They will do this by studying evidence and testimony as they relate to the general elements of negligence.
Hawaii Negligence Laws: Elements of Negligence
The basic elements of negligence are duty, breach of duty, causation and damages.
Typically, you as the plaintiff must prove:
- Duty – the defendant, who you are suing, owed you a duty.
- Breach of duty – the defendant breached their duty.
- Causation – the defendant’s breach of duty led to your injuries.
- Damages – you have suffered actual damages that you can prove.
In a car accident, for example, the defendant has a duty to drive safely to avoid putting anyone in unnecessary danger. The defendant could breach that duty by driving above the speed limit. While speeding, the defendant might not be able to brake in time to avoid hitting your vehicle. As a result, you could suffer a spinal cord injury.
Under Hawaii negligence laws, you could be found partially at fault for the accident if the speeding driver hit you because you failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Therefore, any damages you recover would be reduced by your degree of fault, per the comparative negligence system.
If you think you were partially at fault in a serious accident, you can discuss Hawaii negligence laws with a personal injury attorney who can explain your options for seeking compensation.