When Plaintiffs Are to Blame: Nevada’s Comparative Negligence Statute

Under Nevada law, people who act carelessly are responsible for the injuries and losses that their carelessness causes. That’s called negligence, and it’s something Las Vegas personal injury attorneys rely on everyday. Thus, if a driver fails to follow at a safe speed, and rear ends you because he cannot slow down in time, he has been careless, has failed to act reasonably, and has been negligent.

There are some situations, though, when your injuries were not just a product of someone else’s carelessness, but also of your own.

Perhaps your actions provoke a dog who attacks you. Perhaps you are speeding when someone runs a red light and hits you. Or you’re wearing unreasonably high heels when you trip over a misplaced cord.

In any one of these scenarios, a jury may find that your injuries were partially caused by the defendant’s negligence, but partially caused by your own. Different states handle these cases differently.

Regardless of where you are, the jury is going to have to apportion fault. They’ll do this by assigning a percentage of fault to each party (and there may be more than one defendant). It’s what they do with this apportionment that will determine whether the plaintiff gets the full value of their damages, none of them, or some percentage in between.

Pure Contributory Negligence

In states that adopt a pure contributory negligence standard (there are four states and the District of Columbia with this standard), a plaintiff who is found to be at fault at all for her injuries—even the smallest degree—cannot recover anything. Most states consider this too harsh a result and have declined to adopt this standard.

Pure Comparative Fault

Pure comparative fault states (there are thirteen) take the opposite approach. They will allow the plaintiff to recover for any amount of fault less than 100%. The recovery will be reduced by the plaintiff’s degree of fault, though. So a plaintiff who is 75% at fault for her own injuries and sustains $10,000 in damages, will still recover, but the defendant will only have to pay for his degree of fault, which in this example would be 25% or $2,500.

Modified Comparative Fault

The remaining 33 states adopt some version of the modified comparative fault rule. This rule says that the plaintiff may recover if she is negligent, but only if her negligence does not exceed some predetermined rate. What that rate is varies from state to state. Like in pure comparative fault states, a plaintiff’s recovery in a modified comparative fault state will be reduced by her percentage of fault.

Some states draw the line at 50% fault, meaning, as long as the Plaintiff’s fault is the same or less than the defendants, she can still recover. Other states draw the line just on the other side of the 50% mark and decided that as long as the plaintiff’s fault is less than the defendant’s, there can be no recovery (meaning if they are equally at fault the plaintiff gets nothing).

Nevada’s Rule

Nevada has a modified comparative negligence rule. It is found in NRS 41.141:

In any action to recover damages for death or injury to persons or for injury to property in which comparative negligence is asserted as a defense, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s decedent does not bar a recovery if that negligence was not greater than the negligence or gross negligence of the parties to the action against whom recovery is sought.

In typical fashion, the legislature did what they could to make the statute confusing by using too many words and several negative statements. If we rewrite it in clearer terms, the statute reads, “the plaintiff’s comparative negligence bars recovery if the plaintiff’s negligence is greater than the defendant’s negligence.”

The statute continues, and to paraphrase: “to the extent that the plaintiff is negligent, but the plaintiff’s negligence does not exceed the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s negligence.”

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