When you fall and hurt yourself on someone else’s property, and the fall can be linked to negligence on the part of the property owner, you may expect to be able to recover damages such as your medical expenses and compensation for your pain and suffering. While this is sometimes true, many Hawaiians are unaware that the state adheres to the doctrine of comparative negligence, which can reduce or eliminate your recovery in a personal injury lawsuit.
Under Hawaii’s comparative negligence rule, a court will determine who is responsible for an accident and how much fault each party bears. For example, a court may find that a property owner was 90 percent at fault for not mopping up a spill on their floor, but that the victim was also 10 percent at fault for failing to notice this visible spill.
In cases like this, a court will reduce your damages proportionally to the percentage of fault that you have been assigned for your own accident. Someone who is found not at all responsible for their own accident can receive 100 percent of the damages awarded by a court. Someone who is found to be 25 percent at fault will see their damages reduced by 25 percent, allowing them to recover 75 percent.
To see how this rule could apply to your slip and fall case, imagine that a court finds that your claim is worth $100,000 between medical expenses and other damages. If you were 25 percent responsible, you are entitled to 75 percent of the damages, able to recover $75,000 of the $100,000 total.
But what happens when an accident victim is more at fault than the defendant? Under Hawaii’s laws, a victim is not allowed to recover at all if they were more at fault than the defendant. In practice, this means that a victim who was 50 percent at fault can recover half of their damages, while a victim who is found to be 51 percent at fault cannot recover anything in court.
While these rules do not technically apply in settlement discussions, they will be taken into account, because the defendant will always attempt to show that your own fault would reduce your recovery in court.
If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident in or around Honolulu, the personal injury attorneys at Shim & Chang work to get you justice and compensation. We seek to prove your claim and absolve you of fault. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 808-524-5803.
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