If you are partially at fault for a fall you may still be able to recover damages from a property owner. In most states your recovery will be reduced by your percentage of fault for the injury. Different states have different rules on how this applies. Some states use a strict “contributory” negligence standard of liability based on your actions. Most states, however, have switched to varying levels of a “comparative” negligence standard that balances the award against contributing fault for the injury.
- Contributory Negligence: In states that follow the Contributory Negligence standard, if you are even 1% at fault you cannot recover any damages.
- Pure Comparative Negligence: Under the “pure” comparative fault rule, which is used in New York, no matter who is more or less at fault, the property owner will pay the amount that equals the percentage of their contribution to the injury. If you are 90% at fault and the property owner is 10% at fault, your recovery will be 10% of the awarded damages.
- Modified Comparative Negligence: New Jersey and Pennsylvania use the “Modified” or “51%” rule. Under this standard, if the injured party is at least 51% at fault, the property owner pays nothing. If the injured party is less than 51% at fault, that person can recover the percentage of negligence assigned to the property owner. For example, if you are determined to be 40% at fault for the accident, your award will be 60% of the amount deemed appropriate for the injury.
There are also complex issues associated with claims against more than one person or entity regardless of amount of contribution to the injury. In some cases, a plaintiff can recover the damage award from only one party in the case—the party at fault. In other cases they can recover all or part from any of the parties. For example, let’s say you file a claim against two property owners—the store owner and the owner of the building where the store is located. In court your comparative liability is determined to be 20%, and each of the property owners is allocated 40% responsibility for the injury. Instead of trying to collect 40% from each owner, you may be able to collect 80% from one or the other and let them wrangle with each other to be reimbursed. This makes it easier for a winning plaintiff to be “made whole” as quickly as possible. In these cases it is even more important to have an experienced attorney who can determine whether or not there is a good cause of action, analyze the chance for recovery, and make the case against more than one defendant.
If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident it is recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney in your area.