Comparative Negligence in Nebraska

October 19, 2020 Personal Injury

Almost all personal injury claims ask one key question: was the defendant negligent? If the answer is yes, and his or her negligence is what caused the injured party’s damages, the defendant will have to pay. Comparative negligence, however, is a defense a defendant may use to diminish or remove his or her portion of liability for an accident. Find out how the comparative negligence defense might affect your claim and ability to recover in Nebraska.

Is Nebraska a Comparative Negligence State?

Not all accidents are 100% one person’s fault. In many cases, multiple parties contribute to an accident. Determining fault for these types of cases requires a more nuanced approach. All states use one of two doctrines to determine shared liability for an accident: comparative negligence or contributory negligence. Nebraska is a comparative negligence state.

According to Nebraska Revised Statute 21,185.09, fault can be distributed among multiple parties – including the plaintiff – during a personal injury case. If the plaintiff is partially responsible for the accident, Nebraska’s comparative negligence law will not automatically bar him or her from recovery. This would be the case, however, in a contributory negligence state. Contributory negligence states do not allow plaintiffs to seek financial compensation if they are even 1% at fault for an accident. Nebraska’s more lenient rule is what makes it a comparative negligence state.

How Does Nebraska’s Comparative Fault Law Work?

The vast majority of states are comparative negligence states, meaning they do not bar plaintiffs from recovering for partial fault. In Nebraska, the modified comparative fault law will only bar a plaintiff from recovery if he or she is more than half at fault for the accident. If the courts look at the evidence provided by the defendant and believe you were more than 50% to blame for the accident, therefore, you will not receive any recovery. This rule makes it very important to hire an attorney to help you argue down your percentage of fault.

Your amount of fault for an accident or injury in Nebraska will directly affect how much money you recover from the defendant in damages. The state’s comparative negligence doctrine works by diminishing a plaintiff’s amount payable by the proportion of his or her fault. If you would have received $100,000 from a defendant for dangerous premises in a slip and fall claim, for example, but the courts find you 20% at fault for failure to watch where you were walking, the defendant would only have to pay you $80,000 ($100,000-[$100,000×0.20]) instead of the full $100,000.

In a case where more than one defendant shares fault for a plaintiff’s accident, Nebraska’s joint and several liability law (Statute 25-21,185.10) states that each defendant will be jointly and severally liable for economic damages, but only severally liable for noneconomic damages. This means each defendant will have to pay 100% of a plaintiff’s economic damages, but only the portion of the plaintiff’s noneconomic damages assigned to that defendant. The courts will render a judgment against each individual defendant for his or her degree of fault.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Your proven amount of fault for an accident or injury can directly influence how much you receive in economic and non-economic damages. If a defendant’s attorney succeeds in proving that you were comparatively at fault, you may not receive as much for your medical bills, property damages, lost wages and other losses as you otherwise would have. You would receive $0 if the defendant’s attorney proves you were more than 50% responsible for the accident.

Hiring a personal injury lawyer of your own could allow you to combat the comparative negligence defense during a claim and maximize your payout. A lawyer can use the evidence collected against the defendant to try to convince a court that he or she was more to blame than you were for the accident – maximizing your recovery award. Contact an attorney for assistance with your case for the best possible results.