Negligence : How Insurance Finds Fault

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is an argument that can be used to determine whose fault an accident was. If a person was negligent, it means they did not act the way a “reasonably prudent” person would have acted. If this negligence caused an accident with injuries or property damages, then the at-fault party’s liability insurance would kick in. Basically, a person who is acting negligently is acting carelessly and neglectfully.


The “reasonably prudent” person test is the best way to determine negligence. For example, if a bee flew into you car, a reasonably prudent person would roll down the window or pull over. A person who reacted by letting go of the steering wheel, swerving into oncoming traffic and causing damage and injuries to other people is not acting like a reasonably prudent person and therefore is negligent. On the other hand, if a driver is shot at while driving, ducks and hits a mailbox, he or she was not being negligent because ducking to avoid a bullet is what a reasonably prudent person would do.


The Four Types of Negligence

Like many things, negligence systems vary by state. The amount that a person can collect from the other person’s negligence is determined by these systems. There is rarely a case where a driver is 100 percent at fault.


  1. Pure Contributory Negligence: This is the strictest of the four types, as it will not allow a driver to collect from liability if he or she is at fault in any way. This means that if the person was found to be even one percent negligent, he or she will have to go through their own collision insurance, if they have it. Only four states have this system: Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.

  2. Pure Comparative Negligence: This is the most forgiving negligence system. No matter how much fault was yours, as long as it wasn’t 100 percent, you can collect from the other driver’s liability. Each driver collects the percent for which they were not at fault. So if you were 80 percent at fault in an accident, you could still collect 20 percent of the cost of your damages from the other driver. California, Florida and Arizona are some of the states that follow this system.

  3. Fifty Percent Fault Rule: This system, which is the first version of a system called modified comparative fault, puts a limit on the amount of fault the driver can have and still collect. If a driver is found to be 50 percent at fault, he or she cannot collect from the other driver. If a driver is found to be 49 percent at fault, he or she can still collect 51 percent of his or her damages. Tennessee and Georgia are some of the states that use this system.

  4. Fifty-One Percent Fault Rule: This is the second part of the modified comparative fault system. In this case, a driver who is 51 percent or more at fault cannot collect. This way, the driver who is more at fault can never collect from the other driver. However, unlike the 50 percent fault rule, in an accident where the drivers are both found to be equally negligent, or 50/50, both can collect half of their damages. Pennsylvania and Texas are two of the states that have this system.

So, the amount that you can collect from another person’s liability varies by state. The best thing you can do is avoid negligence. Stay alert and cautious while driving, follow all road signs and just drive safely.

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