August 29, 2019

What is the Doctrine of Modified Comparative Fault in Michigan?

Thirty-three states recognize the Modified Comparative Fault System in negligence cases, including Michigan, and the systems have been questioned due to the confusion it causes for juries and the complications from multiple at-fault defendants in a single case. Malpractice lawyers in Michigan deal with these complications all the time and can assist you with your case.

Modified Comparative Fault

The doctrine of Modified Comparative Fault refers to the part of tort law where the courts reduce the amount of damages that can be claimed from a defendant for personal injury, wrongful death or property damage based on the plaintiff’s percentage of fault in the case. Economic damage is reduced by the percentage of comparative fault of the plaintiff, and noneconomic damages shall not be awarded.

Sometimes, the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to their injuries or damage, and the courts will then weigh up the plaintiff’s negligence against the defendant’s negligence and will reduce awards accordingly.

Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence Rule

In Contributory Negligence doctrine, any contribution to the damages by the plaintiff’s bar them from claiming any damages, no matter how small their part. This rule is used in five states.

There are three variations to the Comparative Negligence Rule:

  • Pure comparative negligence – the plaintiff can recover even if he is mostly at fault, and it is used in 12 states.
  • Modified comparative negligence 51% bar rule – a plaintiff can recover if their contributory negligence is equal to or less than the defendant’s, used in 22 states.
  • Modified comparative negligence 50% bar rule – the plaintiff can only recover if their negligence is less than the defendants.

Modified Contributory Negligence in Michigan

Michigan used to follow Contributory negligence, where you were unable to claim for any damage or injuries if you were partly to blame but have since adopted Modified Contributory Negligence.

The doctrine is described in the Michigan Compiled Laws, Chapter 600: Chapter 29, Section 600.2959 (Comparative Fault). Contributions among tortfeasors are described in Sections 600.2925a, 600.2925b, and 600.2925c.

Now that Michigan is using comparative fault, the plaintiff’s claim is reduced proportionally based on the percentage of his contribution to fault. For economic damages they use Pure Contributory Negligence, i.e. a plaintiff can still claim a proportion of the damages even if he mostly to blame. However, if his contribution to fault is greater than 5o%, he is barred from claiming noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress or mental distress.

For example, if you were injured in an accident, and accumulated economic damages totalling $100,000, and believe you are due another $80,000 in noneconomic damages, you will have to prove that you were not at fault for the accident.

If the defendant ran a red light, but you were speeding and not watching the intersection for oncoming cars, you are partly at fault, as you were breaking the law at the time of the accident.

If your contributory fault is found to be 20%, your damages will be reduced by that percentage, so you will only be able to claim $80,000 economic and $64,000 for noneconomic damages.

However, say you were driving at 65 mph in a 35 mph zone, which is a more serious offence, and if your contributory fault is calculated at 60%, your economic damages claim will be reduced to $40,000, and you will be barred from claiming any noneconomic damages.

If there is any doubt about your role in contributing to negligence, it is best if you call an experienced negligence lawyer, it requires a thorough knowledge of the law and how contributions are assigned as well as complex calculations. If you live in Michigan, and you have suffered damage, call our law firm at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642-4529) for a free consultation.

Nikole has a special interest in medico-legal issues and holds post-basic degrees in medical law and business. She has developed quality improvement and safety plans for many practices and facilities to prevent medico-legal issues and teaches several courses on data protection and privacy, legal, medical examinations and documentation, and professional ethics. She has been writing professionally on legal, business, ethics, patient advocacy, research and medico-legal issues in articles, white papers, business plans, and training courses for over thirty-five years.

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