While some accidents are solely the cause of one party, it is not unusual for multiple parties to share responsibility for an accident. One of the most common questions Maine personal injury victims have is whether they can pursue a claim for compensation if they were partially at fault for the accident resulting in their injuries. The answer, as is often the case with legal questions of this nature, is “it depends.”
Maine courts employ the doctrine of modified comparative negligence when it comes to determining which injury victims can recover for their injuries. In many jurisdictions using a comparative negligence system, a partially at-fault plaintiff can recover for their injuries; however, a plaintiffs’ recovery amount will be reduced by their percentage of fault. Thus, if a plaintiff suffered $400,000 in personal injury damages but was found to be 25 percent at fault by the jury, the plaintiff’s total recovery amount would be $300,000.
Under Maine Rules of Civil Procedure section 156, as long as the injury victim is less than 50% percent at fault for the accident, they are legally permitted to recover for their injuries. However, unlike other jurisdictions, Maine courts “instruct the jury to reduce the total damages by dollars and cents, and not by percentage, to the extent considered just and equitable.” In so doing, juries should consider the plaintiff’s share of responsibility, but should not strictly rely on percentages when reducing a plaintiff’s award figure. In addition, the court must instruct the jury that their award amount will be the final verdict in the case and that there will be no further modification by the court.