You Can Recover Damages, Even If You Made a Mistake

Many cases we take involve some fault by our clients. Picture the following examples:

  • You are driving above the speed limit when another vehicle pulls out in front of you and T-bones your car.
  • You are crossing the street against the walk signal when a car runs a red light and hits you in the middle of the crosswalk.
  • You are talking on your cell phone or texting when you trip and fall down a dangerous flight of stairs that is not built to code.

If you file a lawsuit under any of these circumstances, the defendant will probably argue that you were partly at fault for your own injuries. This is called a comparative negligence defense.  Comparative negligence is a common issue in personal injury cases.  However, you can still file a lawsuit and, in some cases, you can still recover compensation for your injuries even if you were partly at fault.

In Maine, the fault of the injured person and the wrongdoer are compared.   The way it is supposed to work is like this:

  • If the two are equally at fault or the injured person was more at fault than the wrongdoer, then the injured person cannot recover any damages. (“Recover damages” means receive money to pay for your injuries.)
  • If the judge or jury finds that the wrongdoer was more at fault, then the injured person can still recover damages but her compensation is supposed to be reduced by an amount that is “just and equitable,” to take into account the injured person’s own behavior.

This can get tricky in a number of ways. For example, what a “just and equitable” reduction looks like is debatable, and juries are given a lot of freedom to decide how compensation should be reduced because of an injured person’s own fault.  How does one value the effect of driving too fast when it was someone else who T-boned you?  How does one value the amount of fault of being on a cell phone when walking down stairs?

In addition, it can be a challenge to determine what is legally considered “fault.” There are a number of special rules and laws that may apply, depending on the circumstances.  These may protect some conduct that looks like fault and may make certain kinds of fault more serious.

If you are injured in an accident and you think you were partly at fault, you need an attorney who has detailed knowledge of the rules and laws that might apply to your case. Consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you overcome the argument that your own conduct caused your injuries.   If you have any questions, please feel free to call Braden Clement at 784-3200 or e-mail him at

This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of personal injury law. You can contact us at 207.784.3200. Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.