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Understanding Pennsylvania’s modified comparative negligence

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2024 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

In every car accident claim, someone ultimately has to accept the blame – and the liability – for what happened.

A lot of times, exactly how an accident occurred and who was at fault can be a matter of contention between the parties involved, especially if it seems like both drivers may have contributed to the wreck and a victim’s injuries. This is where it’s critical to understand Pennsylvania’s modified comparative negligence rule

It divides the blame and the financial losses

Known as the “51% Bar Rule,” the modified comparative negligence law in this state says that the plaintiff in a car accident claim can recover compensation for their injuries only if they are less than 51% at fault for their own losses. In addition, any compensation they receive will be reduced proportionately to the degree of fault that’s allocated their way.

In practical terms here’s what this means: If you’re in a wreck with another driver who hit you from behind, that driver will most likely be considered at fault for the accident. Maybe they were distracted or speeding, but they failed to keep an assured clear distance.

However, the defendant in the case (or their insurer) maintains that your injuries would not have been as extreme if you had remembered to buckle your seatbelt before you pulled out of your driveway – which you did not.

If the case goes to litigation and the court agrees with the defense, you would be assigned a percentage of the liability for your own losses. If, for example, you have a total of $100,000 in losses, including your medical bills, lost wages and more, but the court says your failure to use a seatbelt makes you 20% responsible for your losses by causing your injuries to be more severe, the compensation you would be due would be reduced to $80,000.

This is why it’s so important not to communicate with the defendant’s insurance company on your own. Adjusters are looking for anything they can use to throw liability your way and devalue your claim.