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What is Comparative Negligence and How Does it Work in Ohio?

April 19, 2023

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John is walking down the street when he trips on a broken sidewalk and falls. He is injured and sues the city for negligence. The city argues that John was partially at fault for not paying attention to where he was walking. The court applies the doctrine of comparative negligence and finds that John was 40% at fault for the incident and the city was 60% at fault. The court awarded John damages for his injuries but reduced the award by 40% to account for his negligence.

Courts use the comparative negligence doctrine to reduce the damages a plaintiff can recover. When a victim of a negligence-based injury is partially at fault due to their own negligence, courts may designate a portion of the fault to both the plaintiff and the defendant.

Ohio enacted the comparative negligence rule in 1980. According to this rule, negligence is a failure to act with the level of care that someone would have exercised in the same circumstances. It is the breach of a duty to exercise reasonable care that results in damages to another party.

Negligence can take many forms, such as car accidents, medical malpractice, slip and falls, and product liability. But proving your case on a balance of probabilities is an entirely different task. To successfully defend your suit, you’ll need to understand comparative negligence tenets, the impact of evidence, and procedural rules.

With so much at stake, it will help to retain the services of personal injury attorneys in Ohio. They canhelp protect your rights and ensure you get what you deserve in awarded damages.

Negligence and Fault in Ohio

Negligence is failure to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing harm to another person or their property. In Ohio, negligence is considered a legal cause of action used to determine a defendant's liability in a personal injury case.

To succeed in a negligence action, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:

  1. Duty: The defendant was legally obliged to act with a certain level of care toward the plaintiff. 
  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant breached their duty by failing to act with the level of care required.
  3. Causation: The defendant's breach of duty caused the plaintiff's injuries.
  4. Damages: The plaintiff suffered some injury or loss due to the defendant's breach of duty.  

Is Ohio an At-Fault State?

Ohio is an at-fault state, meaning that an individual deemed at fault for an accident is financially responsible for any resulting injuries or damages. The at-fault driver's insurance company is liable for the damages up to the policy's limits.

How Comparative Negligence Works in Ohio

Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine used to determine the damages a plaintiff is entitled to in a personal injury case. Under this doctrine, courts or insurance companies assign a percentage of fault to each party involved in the accident based on their respective negligence.

Courts and insurance providers in Ohio use a modified comparative negligence rule. This rule states that a plaintiff may only be awarded damages if they are found to be less than 50% responsible for the accident. If the plaintiff is found 50% or more responsible, they will be prohibited from recovering damages.

To recover damages under the comparative negligence doctrine, the plaintiff must file a claim against the defendant in a civil court. The plaintiff must then present evidence to prove their case. Evidence may include witness testimony, medical records, photographs, police reports, and other relevant documents. After the evidence has been presented, the court will assess the percentage of fault assigned to each party. If the plaintiff is found less than 50% at fault, they may be entitled to a portion of the damages.

What happens when fault cannot be determined in an accident?

When fault cannot be determined in an accident, the court may use the "contributory negligence" doctrine to assess damages. Under this doctrine, the court will evaluate the amount of negligence on both parties, and if both are found to be negligent, it won’t award damages.

Determining fault is fact-specific and requires a comprehensive investigation to unearth the relevant facts leading up to the injury. This investigation is why you should seek the services of Ohio personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. They’ll scour the scene for evidence and testimony to ensure you have a solid case to establish fault against the defendant.

A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

Personal injury lawyersunderstand that no one is perfect. The fact that you played a part in the accident doesn't mean you should miss out on your legal right to compensation. Seek the counsel of an experienced attorney to help you navigate the complexities of a negligence-based claim.

Working with a personal injury lawyer, Ohio residents can better understand their rights and ensure they get the maximum compensation they deserve. A lawyer can also help them understand the laws and procedures surrounding comparative negligence and other doctrines used in negligence-based cases. Contact Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy Personal Injury Lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio, for a free case assessment.

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