What is Comparative Negligence & How Does It Change a Slip & Fall Case?

In a recent blog entry – click here to check it out – we actually touched upon how business owners can become liable for a person’s slip and fall accident in their store or office. Each property controller has a responsibility to protect patrons, guests, and visitors from unreasonable hazards, or else they could be held liable for any accidents and injuries, specifically the damages that result from them. This is the groundwork of premises liability law.

Someone slipping on aisle three of a grocery store might not be completely free of liability, though. Comparative negligence is an aspect of personal injury cases that frequently comes up in slip and fall cases. Explained briefly, comparative negligence is an injured party’s ability to assume partial liability for their own injuries due to their own negligence. If it can be proved that the plaintiff was being reckless at the time of their injury, comparative negligence will likely put a percentage of the cost of their own recovery back onto them.

Paying for Your Own Mistakes

A defendant in a premises liability case, like a retail store, will be working to try to prove comparative negligence that helps them avoid full liability. Comparative negligence is not just “the plaintiff should have been more careful”, though; instead, it is “the plaintiff was intentionally not being careful.”

Someone visiting a grocery store and slips on a random puddle of juice while glancing down at a list of items to buy should not be found comparatively negligent for the accident. It is reasonable to assume that the ground in front of them is clear of clutter, and looking at a grocery list is a common behavior while shopping. Someone running around the grocery store as fast as possible, laughing and just goofing around, will be comparatively negligent if they slip on that same puddle of juice, though. It is common knowledge that running on tile flooring is unsafe, and such wild behavior is not typically acceptable in stores for other safety reasons, namely the chance of crashing into someone else and hurting them.

Splitting Up the Liability

When comparative negligence is established, it must be done in a mathematical way. That is to say, it is represented as percentages in a personal injury claim. The person running around the grocery store and not paying attention in the aforementioned example could be found 50% liable for their own injuries and, thus, 50% of the damages will be paid by them, not the store. If this person needed $20,000 to recover, only $10,000 would be paid by the defendant. Comparative negligence is generally broken down into 10% tiers and rarely exceeds 50% – if the plaintiff is more than 51% responsible for their own injuries, the case will likely not succeed at all.

If you need to file a personal injury claim after being hurt on someone else’s property but fear the defendant could try to pin comparative negligence on you, our Toledo premises liability attorneys at Williams DeClark Tuschman Co., L.P.A. can be of assistance. We bring 50+ years of total legal experience to each case we accept, empowering our clients in ways few other Ohio law firms can claim. Learn more about our services and your own options by contacting us online or setting up a complimentary consultation.

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