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The 51% Fault Rule: Comparative Contributory Negligence in Indiana

Every day, countless people sustain injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence. You or a loved one may be one of these wrongfully injured individuals, whether by a car accident, a defective product, or even a dog bite. But personal injury law is highly complex, and determining whether you have a valid claim may be a challenge without a thorough understanding of the legal obstacles you may face along the way.

In Indiana, one of the complicating factors you will need to understand is the modified comparative negligence law, commonly referred to as the “51% fault” rule.

Like most states, Indiana courts consider the plaintiff’s contribution to the incident before awarding damages. Generally, the less you are at fault, the more compensation you will receive. Unlike some states, however, Indiana will not recognize your right to compensation at all if you are found to have been 51% at fault or higher. The 51% fault rule allows you to file a personal injury claim only if you were less than 51% at fault for the incident.

The 51% fault rule is one of two versions of comparative negligence that most states follow. The other type of comparative negligence is the 50% rule, which functions the same way but only allows plaintiffs to file a claim if they are less than half at fault for the incident.

Remaining states follow either the pure contributory negligence law or the pure comparative fault law. Pure contributory negligence law bars plaintiffs from filing a claim if they are even 1% at fault for the incident, while pure comparative fault law allows plaintiffs to file as long as they are 99% at fault or less.

An Example of Indiana’s Modified Comparative Negligence 51% Rule

If you sustained a broken bone because another driver ran a stop sign and hit your car, you will likely feel inclined to pursue damages. After all, if they had followed traffic laws, the accident would never have occurred.

The outcome of this case, however, will depend upon your driving as well. If you were fully engaged and obeyed all traffic laws, the court will likely determine that the other driver was 100% at fault. But what if, on the other hand, a bystander witnessed you texting and driving? What if police conducted a sobriety test because they noticed you had been driving erratically, and your BAC exceeded the legal limit? Maybe you simply failed to come to a full and complete stop at your own stop sign. Any of these factors may raise your level of fault up to or beyond 51%.

Comparative negligence is not always straightforward. Every case is unique, and the jury will consider a variety of circumstantial factors in order to determine your level of fault and corresponding right to compensation.

Enlisting Professional Support for Your Case

Understanding the subtle differences in negligence laws from state to state will help you determine whether or not you have a valid claim. Negligence law can be extraordinarily difficult to navigate on your own, however, and counsel from a seasoned legal representative will significantly increase your likelihood of success. At Crossen Law Firm, we use our in-depth knowledge of modified comparative negligence and state-specific laws to give our clients the advantage they need. If you are looking for a passionate, skilled, and dedicated legal team knowledgeable about comparative contributory negligence in Indiana, Crossen Law Firm is fully prepared to assist.

Call (317) 401-8626 or schedule your consultation today. We look forward to working with you.