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“Comparative Fault” and How It Affects Your Case

One of the first questions people ask when seeking the help of a personal injury attorney is, “How much is my case worth?” Many want to know if filing a personal injury suit is worth their time and effort. While compensation is based on numerous variables, one factor that contributes greatly is Indiana’s “comparative fault” rule. What is this rule and how does it affect compensation?

The Comparative Fault Rule

Personal injury law and compensation vary by state. In Indiana, the “comparative fault” rule refers to situations when the injured person is partially at fault for the event that led to the injury. Depending on the amount of fault assigned to the injured person, this rule reduces or may even eliminate the damages the other responsible party must pay. Under the law, if the plaintiff (the injured party who filed the suit) is found to be at least 51 percent responsible, he or she is not entitled to any compensation. However, if the other party is found to be 50 percent or more accountable, the plaintiff is entitled to collect some amount.

An Example

To better understand “comparative fault”, consider a hypothetical situation: suppose a driver turns left in front of you causing an accident. It seems that the other driver is 100 percent at fault. However, in court he or she may argue that you were driving too fast or distracted by talking on your phone. Thus, the defendant claims that you are partially accountable because you should have been able to stop in time to avoid the crash. If your case makes it to trial, the jury would decide where the fault lies. Most likely, they would hear from both drivers, witnesses and maybe even an accident reconstruction expert. If the jury decides you are not at fault, you would receive 100 percent of the compensation. However, suppose the jury finds you 20 percent responsible. Your compensation would be reduced by 20 percent. If the damages were determined to be $10,000, you would receive $8,000. If the jury determined you were 51 percent responsible, you would not receive anything. The bottom line is you must prove you were not primarily responsible.


There are two exceptions where “comparative fault” does not apply: cases involving medical malpractice or suits against a government entity, such as the state or a municipality. In these cases, “contributory negligence” applies. This means in order to collect compensation, the plaintiff must not be at fault at all. Even a one or two percent accountability on the part of the plaintiff would disqualify him or her from compensation.

As the illustration shows, compensation is left largely in the hands of a jury. Thus, having an experienced personal injury attorney who can effectively present your case is critical to the outcome. Ken Nunn Law Office has a team of Indianapolis injury lawyers with vast experience representing clients in court. Contact us for a free consultation.

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