Massachusetts law uses a rule called comparative fault (aka “Comparative/Contributory Negligence”) when determining financial damages in a personal injury case. In effect, a determination will be made regarding what percentage of fault is assigned to the victim of an injury as well as the fault assigned to the person believed to be at fault for the injury.
Practical application of comparative fault
For most people, it is a challenge to understand comparative fault. Therefore it is typically helpful to have a solid example of how the facts of the case will be looked at. Here is an example of what comparative fault is:
You are walking up a flight of stairs in a commercial building. You are with a friend and talking. Because you are distracted, you do not notice that there is a break in the handrail and you get your shirt sleeve stuck in the break causing you to fall down the stairs. You are seriously injured in the fall and have to have surgery and are out of work for several weeks. You feel you deserve to have your medical bills and lost wages compensated.
When reviewing the facts of your case, the court determines you are partially responsible for your fall because you were distracted. The property owner is at fault as well because they should have repaired the broken handrail.
The final determination is that you are 20% at fault for your injuries. Your injury award is determined to be $100,000. However, because you were 20% at fault, the maximum you will be awarded is $80,000.
The comparative fault threshold
It is important to understand that if you are found to be greater than 50% responsible that you will be unable to collect any compensation under the personal injury laws in Massachusetts. Using the scenario above, you might be found to be over 50% liable for your accident if the property owner placed a hazard sign on the stairway indicating there was a break in the handrail.
If you have been injured at a commercial facility such as a supermarket or shopping center, you may have the right to file a personal injury suit. Contact a Massachusetts personal injury attorney to determine what rights you have and what evidence you may have to provide.