Comparing Fault & Contributory Negligence Accident Laws in Minnesota

Tracking Accident

Negligence is not acting reasonably. The standard is what a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.

If you act negligently by doing something and you hurt someone, you will be held responsible. Less commonly known, if you act negligently by NOT doing something and you hurt someone, you will be held responsible.

Sometimes the person who is hurt also acted negligently. There are provisions in the law to handle those circumstances as well. Sometimes this is called dual fault. Two types of dual fault under Minnesota laws are:

  1. Comparative fault
  2. Contributory negligence

Assumption of the risk is also a legal theory that reviews the level of fault of each party.

Comparative Fault

Under comparative fault, if the person who is injured is less at fault than the person not injured, the non-injured party will be liable for the harm – but possibly for a smaller portion than the full harm. If the injured party is more at fault than the non-injured party, the non-injured party will not be liable.

There is a comparison of the level of fault which determines the result. A jury may decide what amount of fault should be attributed to each side. A court will then reduce the amount of damages, or award, to the injured party by that amount.

Contributory Negligence

Under contributory negligence, the party who causes the injury acts negligently or unreasonably. Sometimes contributory negligence is a defense to a negligence action. Sometimes the law does not permit the use of contributory negligence as a defense.

If a parent is negligent, and the parent’s child is injured by a third person, the parent’s negligence may not be used as a defense against a claim by the child for the resulting harm. The parent’s negligence may not be said to contribute to the child’s injury. The negligent parent may not institute his or her own claim under these circumstances, however.

Assumption of Risk

Another legal theory related to personal injury and negligence in Minnesota is assumption of the risk.

Primary Assumption of Risk

Primary assumption of the risk is where a person understands the risk and decides to engage in some relationship anyway, assuming the risk. Under these circumstances, no related duty is owed to the person assuming the risk. Participation in a boxing match assumes risk.

When a person chooses to assume some risk and is injured, the person may not recover anything from another person. Primary assumption of the risk does not reduce liability; it is a complete bar to holding someone else liable.

Secondary Assumption of Risk

Secondary assumption of the risk also looks at the faults of each party. Under secondary assumption of the risk, a person’s assumption of the risk is not a complete bar to recovery, but the assumption is taken into consideration.

Courts sometimes merge contributory negligence with secondary assumption of the risk and question whether the injured person was negligent with regard to his or her own safety.

Leave a Public Comment

  • Evan Fisher
    April 11, 2013, 5:09 am

    At our law firm, we field a number of calls regarding sports-related injury. Often, our initial conversation is the first time that the caller has heard of the assumption of risk defense. I can think of only one sports-related injury claim that we have taken over the years and that is where the action on the part of the coaching professionals was so negligent and egregious that the injured person definitely did not sign up for the action that took place; and, therefore, did not assume the risk.