Comparative Negligence in North Dakota

North Dakota observes a modified comparative negligence law. The plaintiff can recover damages if they are much less than 50% at fault.
Written by Tiffany Leung
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
North Dakota is a modified comparative negligence state. This means drivers can recover damages from the other driver’s insurance if their fault does not exceed 50%. 
Depending on which state you’re in, the comparative negligence laws could differ. However, they all share the common goal of determining how much you can claim in damages from an accident. Familiarizing yourself with these laws could help you better understand how your claims will be paid out by insurance.
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a tort rule that allocates fault to the parties involved in an accident. This then reduces the amount of damages each party can recover based on the degree of fault they contributed.
As an example, if you are assigned 40% of the fault, the other driver will be responsible for 60% of your damages. At the same time, you will be responsible for 40% of the other driver’s damages.
When assessing personal injury lawsuits and third-party insurance claims, comparative negligence principles are observed. In both cases, fault will be assigned before determining how much can be recovered by each party.

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

Pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence are three different rules of comparative negligence. Depending on which state you’re driving in, the law will observe one of the following rules to assess liability: 
  • Pure comparative negligence: All drivers involved can claim for their damages less their percentage of fault.
  • Partial or modified comparative negligence: Drivers can claim damages as long as they are under 50% or 51% at fault (the exact percentage varies by state). 
  • Contributory negligence: Drivers can only claim damages if they are allocated 0% fault. 
Most states observe the partial comparative negligence rule. However, there are 12 pure comparative negligence states and 5 pure contributory negligence states.

What is North Dakota’s comparative negligence law? 

North Dakota state uses the modified comparative negligence rules to assess liability claims. In other words, unless you are assigned much less than 50% of the blame, you will not be allowed to make a claim for your damages. 
As an example, if you are found to be 20% at fault, 80% of your damages will be paid out by the other driver’s insurance. However, since the other driver is assigned most of the fault, they will not be entitled to make any claims.

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties? 

In a situation where there are more than two parties involved, the fault will be allocated to every driver involved in the accident. Provided that your fault is much lower than 50%, you are allowed to claim with either or both insurance companies. The insurance companies will then pay in proportion to the fault assigned to those involved.

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

Before the fault is allocated to those involved, insurance companies will first investigate any evidence and police reports.
You can help the case get assessed more accurately by taking down information at the scene of the accident. 
For example: 
  • When did the accident happen? 
  • What were the road and weather conditions? 
  • What kind of cars were involved? 
  • Were there any witnesses? 
The more details you can note, the better it helps insurance companies paint the picture.
To solidify the evidence, you can also take photos of the scene to submit with your claim. For your own record, you should also try to get the contact information of anyone involved.
The details and evidence you provide will help the insurance companies get a more factual picture of what happened so that the blame is assigned fairly.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

In a modified comparative negligence state like North Dakota, damages can only be recovered if the driver (plaintiff) is much less than 50% at fault. The compensation awarded will be reduced by the amount the plaintiff is liable for.
To give an example, you’re driving through a parking lot and a car is backing out of a spot. You honk to make them aware of your presence but they continue to back out and hit your side door.
The insurance companies considered all the evidence and found that the driver backing out didn’t check their blind spot. They were also using their phone, which required taking their eyes off the road. However, the insurers also found that you continued driving instead of stopping. In the final assessment, the other driver is assigned 70% fault for negligence and distracted driving. You are assigned 30% fault for failing to take precautionary measures.
According to North Dakota’s modified comparative negligence law, you are entitled to recover 70% of your damages from the other driver. Since the other driver was mostly at fault (over 50%), your insurance will not be paying for any of their damage claims.

How to find affordable car insurance

Regardless of the comparative negligence rule observed, it’s important to get car insurance that will cover your damages no matter what. The
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FAQ

Yes. Your insurance premiums heavily depend on certain identifying traits, such as your demographics, the car you drive, and your driving record. Being involved in an at-fault accident usually results in a 20% increase in premiums.
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