What to Know About Comparative Negligence in Pennsylvania

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
January 21, 2021

Every state has its own set of laws governing how much compensation a person can claim in a personal injury lawsuit, and a major aspect of these regulations involves “comparative negligence.” This refers to whether an injured person can recover damages if they’re partially at fault for the accident. While some states rule that an injured person is disqualified from filing a claim if they’re even one percent at fault, other states have more complex laws that allow them to sue another party for their injuries if they’re partially—or even mostly—at fault.

Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence laws allow individuals who have been injured in an accident to recover compensation for damages even when they are partly at fault. However, Pennsylvania regulations state that, depending on the plaintiff’s degree of shared fault, the damages they’re permitted to collect may be limited or, in some cases, completely restricted.

Contributory Negligence in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Contributory negligence bars an injured person from any damage award if they contributed to the injuries at all. In this case, if the defendant can provide the smallest fraction of evidence that proves that you were even one percent at fault for your accident, your case may be in danger. As a result, contributory negligence primarily benefits insurers and defendants. Only four states follow this rule: Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia (including D.C.).

Comparative Negligence in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Comparative negligence laws, on the other hand, aim to compensate the plaintiff for at least partial damages according to their percentage of fault. Most states abide by comparative negligence. Within the legal concept of comparative negligence are two subcategories: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. In a pure comparative negligence state, a plaintiff can carry any percentage of fault—even 99 percent—and still be eligible for damages. About a third of U.S. states utilize this rule.

Modified comparative negligence imposes a certain limit on the plaintiff’s degree of fault, above which the plaintiff forfeits recovery. The majority of states follow the modified comparative fault model, which is split into two distinct categories: the 50 percent bar rule and the 51 percent bar rule. In states following the 50 percent rule, a party that is 50 percent or more responsible for an accident may not recover any damages. In states adhering to the 51 percent rule, a party may not recover any damages if they’re 51 percent at fault.

Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state that follows the 51 percent modified comparative rule.

Comparative Negligence Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence laws, detailed in 42 Pa C.S.A. § 7102, provide that a plaintiff’s fault does not bar them from recovery so long as they’re less at fault than the defendant:

“In all actions brought to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or injury to person or property, the fact that the plaintiff may have been guilty of contributory negligence shall not bar a recovery by the plaintiff or his legal representative where such negligence was not greater than the causal negligence of the defendant or defendants against whom recovery is sought…”

In other words, so long as the accident victim is less than 51 percent to blame for the accident, they can still recover damages based on the percent they’re at fault. For example, if you were only 20 percent at fault, you can still recover 80 percent of whatever amount is awarded as compensation. If you were 51 percent or more at fault, however, you lose the right to receive any compensation at all.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer in Montgomery County

If you were injured in an accident, the experienced Southeast Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. may be able to help. Under Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence laws, identifying and establishing fault will largely determine the outcome of your case, so having an attorney represent you may be pivotal to your case’s success. After meeting with you one-on-one to discuss your case and any potential obstacles during a free consultation, we’ll outline the facts and circumstances surrounding any impending legal action in order to help you determine the most strategic method to compensate you for any damages.

For nearly 68 years, our attorneys have been serving the legal needs of clients in Montgomery County, Bucks County, Lehigh County, Chester County, Delaware County, and throughout the surrounding areas. We’ve earned the trust and respect of clients facing a wide range of legal problems. Our attorneys serve to protect you and guard your rights. Call (215) 822-7575 or complete our online contact form today.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
January 21, 2021
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.