How Much Does The Victim's Conduct Matter In Injury Cases?


Personal injury attorneys tend to focus on liability when they evaluate cases. However, the world is an imperfect place where liability rarely lands 100% at the feet of one party. Victims of accidents sometimes contribute to the events leading to incidents.

What are the implications of the victim's contribution to an accident? Here is a look at how personal injury lawyers approach this question.

Is It Negligence or Strict Liability?

One of the first issues a lawyer hopes to sort out is determining if an incident was a form of negligence or strict liability. In terms of how a victim's actions figure into a case, this is huge. When negligence is the governing principle, the victim's choices leading up to an accident will factor into whether there is compensation and how much might be awarded. Conversely, strict liability means the defendant is wholly responsible regardless of what else might have happened.

Most injury cases are centered on negligence. For a defendant to be strictly liable, they must have been engaged in known dangerous activities. Work involving chemicals, biological agents, and explosives, for example, is almost always covered by strict liability. A similar rule applies to incidents involving exotic animals. Some cases involving known dangerous domesticated animals may also meet this standard.

Contributory Negligence

It's not automatic that negligence cases presume some responsibility on the part of a claimant. A claims adjuster or jury must assess whether there was contributory negligence. This is when a victim's conduct meaningfully led to their injuries. For example, someone how was fooling around on a handrail before it failed might be seen as contributing to the incident.

Notably, this doesn't automatically end the claim. Instead, there is a question of how much contributory negligence occurred. Most states' standards require the defendant to be at least 51% responsible. If the claimant was predominantly responsible for the incident, they usually won't be able to recover any compensation.

Some states, though, have adopted standards that allow recoveries even when a victim mostly contributed to what happened. 


When an adjuster or a jury decides what the compensation should be, they have to factor contributory negligence into the equation. If a victim was found to be 20% at fault for an incident that left them with $100,000 in related medical costs, for example, the settlement or judgment would only be $80,000. Even if the circumstances seem a bit fuzzy, this number will be exact.


12 November 2020

Personal Injury Lawyers: A Unique Viewpoint

Did you know that many personal injury and car accident cases do not even end up being heard in front of a judge or jury? That's because most defendants would rather settle out of court so that they do not have to go through the expense and annoyance of a lengthy court battle. Personal injury attorneys need to be prepared for this. In addition to being ready to defend their clients in court, they need to be skilled negotiators. As you can see, this is a job that requires many diverse skills! Learn more about those skills, and about personal injury attorneys in general, right here on this site.