Explanation of Pure Comparative Fault

Pure comparative fault, or pure comparative negligence, is a legal doctrine used in 13 states. Its purpose is to determine the percentage of fault, or negligence, each party has in an injury-accident. Insurance companies and lawyers use it to determine compensation in personal injury claims. The rule of pure comparative fault applies in car accidents, slips and falls, defective products, dog attacks, and other injury-accidents.

The following states use pure comparative fault:

New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
South Dakota

The remaining 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico use the no-fault, pure contributory negligence, modified 51 percent or modified 50 percent comparative negligence rules in injury-accident claims.

Example of how pure comparative fault applies:

Vic Timm was a cool guy. He wore his sunglasses all the time, even at night. Vic and his girlfriend decided to head to a local nightclub. In the club, the lights were low. Vic kept his sunglasses on when he entered the club. As a waiter served drinks to another couple, he accidentally spilled the drinks on the floor. The waiter immediately went to get a mop. Those close to the spill saw it and avoided it.

Vic and his girlfriend decided to dance. As Vic walked to the dance floor, he slipped and fell on the wet floor, breaking his arm. Vic was a computer data technician. He couldn’t work for two months due to his injury. He filed an insurance claim against the nightclub claiming the club’s negligence caused his injuries completely (100 percent).

Vic said someone should have cordoned off the spill area. He sought compensation for his medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and for his pain and suffering. His demand totaled $10,000.

The insurance company offered Vic $6,000. They told Vic that wearing sunglasses in a darkened room constituted negligence on his part. If he hadn’t worn his sunglasses, he would have seen the spill and avoided it. The company said Vic’s negligence amounted to 40 percent, and the nightclub’s negligence was 60 percent. The insurance company based its percentage estimation on past claims and lawsuits with similar fact patterns.

Here’s another example:

Barbara Kew had a cookout for her friends. Along with hot dogs and hamburgers, she bought several liters of carbonated soda. During the cookout, Barbara unscrewed the cap of one of the bottles. The pressure in the bottle burst the cap off straight into Barbara’s eye. She suffered injuries and her damages totaled $20,000.

She filed a lawsuit against the bottle manufacturer claiming the product was defective, and that the manufacturer was 100 percent liable for her injuries. The defense called an eyewitness who said Barbara purposely shook the bottle to make the cap fly off “like a champagne cork.” The jury found Barbara was 90 percent liable and the manufacturer 10 percent liable. Barbara received $2,000.

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