There are 33 states in the U.S. that use a modified comparative fault system, including Indiana. What exactly does this mean? It means that if your fault was greater than the fault of the other party who was (partially) responsible for the injury, you won’t be able to recover damages. That’s why it is also called the 51% fault rule. At least in Indiana.
As it turns out, the 33 states that use the modified comparative fault system don’t all use it the same way. Some use the 51% system and others use a 50% system, in which the plaintiff cannot recover damages unless they were LESS than 50% at fault for the incident.. The states also differ in how and where their laws are codified. If you want all the specifics, you can find them in the comparative and contributory negligence rules state by state.
As far as Indiana is concerned, until 1985, it used to be a contributory fault state. This meant that if the plaintiff had contributed even a minimal amount of fault to the accident or other incident where they were injured, even as little as 1%, they would receive nothing. This turned out to be unenforceable because it was so unfair, and the juries often took the side of the plaintiff when their contributory faults were minor.
The Modified Comparative Fault System
In 1985, the law in Indiana was changed to a modified comparative fault system, where the plaintiff could recover at least a portion of the compensation as long as their fault was 50% or less. So during trials, the jury would weigh the degree to which each party contributed to the incident and then assign the percentage of the compensation accordingly. For example, if the total amount of the compensation would have been $100,000, and the plaintiff turned out to be 30% at fault, they would receive $70,000, that is, $100,000 minus 30%.
However, things are a bit different if the case is against the State of Indiana or any of its subdivisions. In that case, the old contributory fault rule still applies. This means that if the plaintiff was at fault for the incident in any way, even just 1%, they would receive nothing.
It doesn’t matter what type of incident it was. It could have been a car accident, a pedestrian accident, a slip and fall incident, a defective product, or even a dog bite. In either case, the percentages are carefully assessed and weighed, so you can see how important it is to have an experienced personal injury lawyer at your side.
A Hypothetical Example Scenario
Imagine the following scenario. While you were crossing an intersection, a car ran a red light and crashed into your car. You suffered severe injuries and needed extensive medical treatments. You also were unable to work for several months and lost a lot of income.
At first sight, it looks as if the other driver was totally at fault. However, what if there is proof that you were texting as you were crossing the intersection? That would make you guilty of distracted driving.
And what if the police found that you had more than the legal amount of alcohol in your blood? What if you had smoked a joint earlier in the day? Note that marijuana is still illegal in Indiana, both for recreational use and for medicinal use. That could make the case turn out very differently.
Then again, perhaps your contributory negligence was a bit more innocuous. Maybe your brake lights were broken and you were rear-ended as a result. Or you failed to use your turn indicator lights when you pulled into the path of the other driver. There are countless possibilities.
Can you see how a skilled car accident attorney can help you navigate the treacherous terrain of the modified comparative fault system? You will need someone who is familiar with all the pitfalls of determining what qualifies as negligence and fault and how to convince a jury to award compensation to someone who was partially at fault.
The Elements of Negligence Necessary for Proving Liability
The elements of negligence that must be proven to establish the other party’s liability for your damages are very similar in many different scenarios, from medical malpractice cases to car accidents to premises liability or product liability cases.
First, the defendant had a duty of care, whether it’s in the context of a doctor/patient relationship, or whether it’s your landlord who is responsible for ensuring safe living quarters, or a driver responsible for following the rules of traffic.
Second, the defendant breached their duty of care, by failing to exercise sufficient care to prevent the accident.
Third, that breach of care caused the claimant’s injuries.
Fourth, the claimant suffered damages as a result of the above that can be proven by medical bills and records, lost wages, and, as a result of the damages, pain and suffering.
To get compensated for your losses and for your pain and suffering, you will need an attorney who is familiar with Indiana laws and is willing to fight for you. We have the experience and the determination to help you with recovering the compensation you need to make up for the damages you suffered. Call or email us for a free case evaluation for your personal injury case.