As I am sure is common with most children, when my daughters are fighting in the other room and I ask “what’s going on?” each one will often blame the other without even considering that she may have done something wrong herself. 

Such is human nature.  No one likes to admit that he/she may have done something which caused his/her current bad situation.  It is easier to look at someone else and believe that the other person is the source of your problem. 

While it may be easier to blame others, not too many things are that black and white.  In most lawsuits, each party likely could have done something to prevent the bad outcome.  However, just because you may have had some fault does not mean that the other person should not have to pay for what they did.  

In Nebraska, prior to February 8, 1992, the courts followed a doctrine called “contributory negligence.”  By statute, if your own negligence contributed in any way to the harm you received, you were often not able to recover any of your damages from the other party.[1]  This was true even if the other person had more fault than you did.  For example, in a case from 1947, a jewelry salesman entrusted his sample case full of valuable jewelry worth $187,755.04 to hotel staff for safe keeping in the hotel vault.[2]  Later, when he went to retrieve the sample case, it was missing and the jewelry salesman sued the hotel.[3]  The court ruled that the salesman could not recover any amount from the hotel, simply because he was negligent when he failed to inform the hotel staff that his sample case contained precious stones worth $187,000.[4] 

However, such is no longer the case in Nebraska.  As of 1992, Nebraska now follows the doctrine of “comparative negligence.”  According to Nebraska statute, you are no longer barred completely from recovery from the other person simply because you shared in at least some of the blame.[5]  Instead, the court or jury must look at how much fault each person had.[6]  As long as the other person is more at fault than you are, you can still recover something.[7]  The amount you could be awarded by the court would simply be reduced by the percentage of the fault that was your own.[8] 

By way of example, let us say you get into a car accident and it cost you $10,000 to repair your car and pay your medical bills.  When you sue the other driver to force them to pay your damages of $10,000, the court or jury will look at whether the car accident was caused completely by the other person or if you also had some fault.  If you have the same amount of fault or more fault than the other driver, you will not be able to recover any money from the other driver.  If, on the other hand, you had absolutely no fault, then you could likely recover 100% of your damages from the other driver.  However, if the court or jury determines that you were 40% at fault, and the other driver was 60% at fault, the most you could recover would be $6,000 (60% of the total amount).

Just like with my daughters, in a lawsuit each party often tries to point the finger of blame at the other party and the court or jury must then figure out how much fault each person had.  It is important to have a good attorney on your side, to help the court see who is more at fault, and get you the best recovery possible.  The experienced trial attorneys at Goosmann Law Firm, PLC, will fight for you and your business to achieve the best possible outcome. For more information on this topic, contact the Goosmann Law Firm or stop by our Sioux City law firm, Sioux Falls law firm, or Omaha law firm.

[1] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-21,185.

[2] Roger Wurmser, Inc. v. Interstate Hotel Co. of Neb., 148 Neb. 660, 662-63, 28 N.W.2d 405, 406 (1947).

[3] Id. at 663, 28 N.W.2d at 406.

[4] Id. at 666, 28 N.W.2d at 408.

[5] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-21,185.09.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.


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