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What does comparative negligence mean in an Ohio car accident?

Prior to 1980, car accident laws in Ohio were pretty straightforward. If you are at fault in any way during a car accident, you were barred from making any claim for compensation against the other driver. Just to put that into perspective and illustrate the unfairness of that law, consider a car with a broken tail light that is rear-ended by a speeding driver. Under the pre-1980 rules, the driver with the broken tail light may have been considered partially at fault for that accident and thus barred from recovery.

In 1980, the Ohio legislature realized the inherent unfairness of that law and became the 35th state in the Union to enact legislation recognizing the legal theory of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence has its roots in a legal doctrine known as contributory negligence. In other words, a party who is injured in an accident should receive compensation based on the amount of fault that they contributed to the accident as compared to the amount of fault contributed by the other party. The general concept is to award damages based on the proportion of fault.

Ohio's version of comparative negligence law also says that any party that is more than 50 percent liable for an accident is not eligible to recover any compensation. Using our earlier example, let's assume that the car with the broken tail light was only 20 percent at fault for the accident and the speeding car was 80 percent liable for the collision. Under Ohio law today, that means that the driver of the speeding car would be unable to sue for compensation even if that driver had been injured in the crash.

Of course, this is only a basic understanding of Ohio law. That is because no two car accidents are exactly the same. Some car accidents involve motorcycles, pedestrians and even recreational vehicles. Some car accidents involve serious injuries that require extensive medical treatments. Others can be fatal and present the survivors with unique challenges. If you have been injured as the result of a preventable car accident you should find out more about Ohio's comparative negligence laws.

Source: Ohio Department of Insurance, "Understanding Ohio's Comparative Negligence Law" Oct. 17, 2014

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