When people face a negligence lawsuit, they can expect to be in for a challenging legal battle. Whether the claim is against an individual or a business, it’s unlikely for the defendant to admit fault or take responsibility for someone else’s medical bills and financial losses without a fight.
There are defenses that the defendant may use to avoid liability. Even if the plaintiff has strong evidence to establish that the defendant owed him a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused the injuries, the defendant still has the right to raise defenses that may eliminate or at least reduce his liability.
More than one party is often at fault for an accident. A few states use the contributory negligence doctrine, and the defendants in such states almost always use this legal doctrine as a defense to completely avoid liability. Contributory negligence applies when the person bringing the suit or the injured person failed to act as a reasonable person would have acted for his own safety under the circumstances.
A plaintiff found to have acted unreasonably or carelessly and helped cause his own injury will be barred from obtaining compensation for the injury, even if the plaintiff is only one percent at fault. This defense may completely eliminate the defendant’s liability for the plaintiff’s injury and losses.
Most states have now adopted the comparative negligence doctrine in place of pure contributory negligence. This doctrine does not completely bar a negligent plaintiff from recovering damages. Instead, the damages that the injured plaintiff may recover are reduced by the percentage of his own fault that contributed to his injury. This requires the jury to determine the percentage of fault of both the plaintiff and the defendant.
In most states, the “50% rule” of comparative negligence is implemented. Under this rule, a plaintiff whose negligence is equal or greater than the defendant’s negligence may be barred from recovering damages. Partially retaining the contributory negligence rule, it reflects the view that a plaintiff whose contribution to his own injury is greater than the contribution of the defendant does not deserve compensation. A few states use pure comparative fault, allowing a plaintiff to recover damages even when he is largely responsible for his own injury.
Assumption of Risk
The defense of assumption of risk is recognized in personal injury law. It occurs when a plaintiff has a full understanding of the nature of the extent of a foreseeable danger, but voluntarily exposes himself to that danger. A plaintiff who takes on known risks may relieve the defendant from liability. This simply means that any person who understands and recognizes a danger can’t just expose himself to that danger and then seek compensation from the defendant when that danger causes injury.