Examples of Comparative Negligence in Personal Injury Claims

personal injury | March 18, 2024

Personal injury claims often involve incidents of shared negligence. In other words, more than one party contributed to the incident that led to the injury. When this happens, the process of figuring out who receives what compensation and how much becomes more complicated. Here, we want to discuss a few examples of when comparative negligence and personal injury claims may arise. Keep in mind that these are just theoretical examples, and there are countless ways for shared fault injury claims to arise.

Slip and Fall in a Poorly Lit Stairwell

Imagine an individual slips and falls in a stairwell of a bank’s office building, resulting in serious injuries. The stairwell was poorly lit due to several burned-out light bulbs, which the owner of the building neglected to replace.

However, the injured person was also texting on their mobile device while walking down the stairs and failed to hold onto the handrail. In this case, both the property owner’s failure to maintain safe lighting and the injury victim’s distraction contribute to the incident.

A court could find that both parties share the blame. If they do, they will assign a percentage of fault to each, reducing the compensation the injured party can recover based on their degree of fault.

Rear-End Collision at a Stop Sign

Let us now consider a driver who stops at a stop sign and then gets rear-ended by another vehicle, causing injuries to the driver in the first car (the driver who was rear-ended).

Normally, the second driver would be at fault for failing to maintain a safe distance. However, if the first driver’s brake lights were out, and they failed to signal their stop adequately to the following driver (using tried and true hand signals), a court might find them partially responsible for the accident.

Comparative negligence would apply, potentially reducing the compensation the first driver could claim due to their lack of maintenance on their vehicle contributing to the cause of the accident.

Bicycle Accident with a Pedestrian

Now, let’s imagine the scenario of a bicyclist riding on a city sidewalk and crashing into a pedestrian who stepped out from a storefront, causing injuries to both parties.

The city ordinance (in this particular area) prohibits riding bicycles on sidewalks to prevent such accidents. However, the pedestrian was wearing noise-canceling headphones and stepped into the cyclist’s path without looking.

In this scenario, the cyclist could be found negligent for violating the city ordinance, while the pedestrian’s inattention and failure to notice their surroundings could also be considered negligent. The compensation awarded to either party may be adjusted based on their shared responsibility for the accident.

California and Pure Comparative Negligence


In each of these examples, the principle of comparative negligence allows courts to assign responsibility to both the plaintiff and defendant, reflecting the complexity of the incident. This process ensures that compensation is awarded in a manner that is fair and proportional to each party’s contribution to the accident. California operates under what is known as a “pure comparative negligence” system. Though similar to other states’ systems, a pure comparative negligence system allows individuals to recover compensation regardless of how much fault they shared for the incident, even up to 99% at fault. However, the total amount of compensation they ultimately receive will likely be reduced depending on their percentage of fault.