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Comparative Negligence in Massachusetts

Suppose that two drivers driving on a busy road collide. Driver A is injured, but both drivers are partially at fault for accident—Driver A ran a stop sign, but Driver B was speeding at the time of the collision. Driver A wants to sue Driver B in a Massachusetts court. May Driver A recover damages from Driver B? Under Massachusetts law, and absent other circumstances, the answer is “yes.”

In Massachusetts, a driver who is injured but is partially at fault for his or her injuries may still recover against the other driver or drivers at fault, so long as the driver seeking to recover is not 51 percent or greater at fault for the injuries[1] In other words, the driver seeking to recover for his or her injuries must be less than 51 percent negligent for his or her injuries.[2] The law also states that a driver’s recovery must be “diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to person for whose injury, damage or death recovery is made.”[3]

For example, let’s say a plaintiff’s recovery award is a total of $100,000. The plaintiff is 10 percent at fault and the defendant is 90 percent at fault. How much may the plaintiff recover? The answer is $90,000 because the recovery is diminished in proportion to the negligence of the plaintiff (ten percent of $100,000). If a plaintiff is found to be 30 percent at fault for an injury and the plaintiff is awarded $100,000, the plaintiff would receive an award of $70,000.

The cause of action brought by the plaintiff in this situation would be negligence, while the defense asserted by the defendant would be comparative negligence. Some states follow a similar rule to the Massachusetts rule, while others deny recovery to a plaintiff who is 50 percent at fault, instead of 51 percent.

Massachusetts law also states that if a plaintiff violates a criminal statute, ordinance, or regulation which contributed to the injury, death, or damage within which the plaintiff seeks to recover, the plaintiff is not necessarily barred from recovery due to the violation alone.[4] The scenario above, where one driver ran a stop sign and the other driver was speeding (thereby both violating laws) is one example.

Personal injury, negligence, damages and other accident-related topics are as nuanced and unique as the people involved in every case. No two cases are alike. If you have any questions about car accidents, personal injury law, tort law, damages, or other legal incidents, please contact our firm. You may schedule a free consultation with an experienced professional. Call 978-225-9030 during business hours or complete a contact form online. Do not hesitate on your case as you may be entitled to compensation.


[1] Mass Gen. Laws. c. 231 § 85

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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