Nevada’s “comparative negligence” law allows partially-at-fault plaintiffs in a personal injury case to recover a percentage of their damages as long as one or more defendants were at least 50% responsible for the injury or accident.
Nevada’s “comparative negligence” standard is sometimes called “comparative fault,” “shared fault,” or “modified comparative fault.”
To help you better understand Nevada’s law on shared fault, our Las Vegas Nevada personal injury attorneys explain the following:
- 1. Does Nevada follow the “contributory negligence” rule?
- 2. Does Nevada follow the “comparative negligence” rule?
- 3. What is Nevada’s “modified comparative negligence” rule?
- 4. How does a jury apportion blame in a Nevada personal injury lawsuit?
Not any longer. In the past, many states — including Nevada — followed a “contributory negligence” standard. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, if you were even slightly at fault for an accident, you would not be entitled to any recovery whatsoever.1
This approach came to be viewed as draconian and unfair to many accident victims in negligence cases. As a result, most states (including Nevada) now apportion blame under a system known as “comparative negligence.”
If you are partly to blame for an accident, the total compensation you would otherwise be entitled to is reduced by the percentage of the injury you are responsible for.2
Example: Joe is driving 45 mph in a 35 mph residential zone. The light is green in his direction. As he crosses the intersection, Bill runs the red light at 35 mph and hits Joe, leaving Joe with a catastrophic injury under Nevada law.
A jury determines that Bill’s injuries are worth $1,000,000 in damages. However, the jurors also determining that because Joe was speeding, he is 20% to blame for the accident. As a result, Joe’s award is reduced by 20%, and the amount of damages he recovers is $800,000 (80% of $1,000,000).
Yes, but with a twist. Under a pure shared fault standard, blame can be apportioned in any combination, as long as the total adds up to 100%.3
For instance, let’s say that in the above example, it was Joe that had run the red light and Bill that had been speeding. Under a “pure” shared fault approach, Joe would be 80% responsible for the accident. His $1 million in damages would be reduced by 80%. But Bill would still have to pay him $200,000 even though Joe was largely responsible for the accident.
While this may seem fair, in some cases this could lead to grossly unfair results. For instance, Bill — who was only 20% at fault — would still have to pay the full costs of defending the lawsuit. He would bear all of his attorney’s fees and costs.
To remedy this, the state of Nevada adopted a “modified comparative negligence” standard in 1973: You can only recover for a personal injury if you are 50% or less at fault.
As set forth in Section 41.141 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), comparative fault is “modified” in that it allows proportional recovery only when you are 50% or less responsible for an accident or injury.
Specifically, NRS 41.141 provides:
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 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 other words, if the jury determines that the defendant or defendants together are 50% responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries, then the plaintiff will recover something. But if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, he or she is entitled to nothing, no matter how serious the injury.
If the jury determines that the plaintiff is entitled to recover, the jury will return two verdicts:
- A regular verdict indicating the plaintiff’s total damages (without taking into account the plaintiff’s fault); and
- A special verdict indicating the percentage of negligence attributable to each party.
As long as the plaintiff’s shared fault is less than 50%, the judge will then reduce the plaintiff’s damage award by the percentage of the accident attributable to the plaintiff.
Example: Carrie and Delilah are involved in a car accident that causes $100,000 in property damage to Carrie. Carrie sues Delilah. The jury decides that Carrie’s negligence contributed to the accident and that she is 25% at fault while Delia is 75% at fault. Under Nevada’s shared fault standard, Carrie will receive a judgment of $75,000 (75% of the total amount) from Delilah. However, let’s say that instead, the jury finds that it was Carrie who was 75% responsible for the accident. Under Nevada law, Carrie recovers nothing because she is more than 50% at fault.
This is, of course, a simplified example of how the modified comparative fault standard operates under state law. There are variables and complexities in each case that may affect the victim’s ability to recover for injuries suffered in an accident.
Our Nevada personal injury lawyers can go over the facts of your case and help you determine whether it makes sense to proceed with a claim for your losses.
The statute of limitations in Nevada accident cases can be as short as two (2) years, so contact us right away to start working on your case.
- According to the Nevada Supreme Court, the elements in Nevada negligence cases include 1) the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care; 2) the defendant breached that duty; and 3) the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Committing negligent acts is not an intentional tort; the defendant does not have to mean to hurt the plaintiff. (Perez v. Las Vegas Medical Ctr., 107 Nev. 1, 805 P.2d 589 (1991)).
- Joynt v. California Hotel & Casino, 108 Nev. 539, 835 P.2d 799 (1992).
- Piroozi v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 131 Nev. 1004, 363 P.3d 1168 (2015).