Comparative Negligence in Vermont

Under Vermont’s comparative negligence law, you can still collect damages from an accident, as long as you’re no more than 50% at fault.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Vermont follows a modified doctrine of comparative negligence. This means that if you’re hurt in an accident that’s no more than 50% your fault, you have a right to at least partial compensation for your damages or injuries.
There’s nothing worse than getting into a car accident—wondering who is to blame and how much it will cost may be the worst part. That’s why it’s important to know your state’s interpretation of comparative negligence laws.
These laws can be a bit complicated, and they change from state to state. To help you out,
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal concept that applies to car insurance claims and personal injury cases. It means that when two people are involved in an accident, they will collect compensation for the damages based on how much they’re each considered to be at fault.
For example, if you’re in a car accident with another driver, and you’re found to be 20% at fault, you’ll only be responsible for paying 20% of the damages. The other driver will be responsible for the remaining 80%.
Insurance companies determine percentages of fault and damages to be paid when they are involved in a claim, but personal injury cases and fault are determined by a judge or jury.

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

There are three types of comparative negligence: pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence. Each state follows one of these legal principles. 
  • Pure comparative negligence: An injured party collects damages according to their percentage of fault. 
  • Partial/modified comparative negligence: An injured party may only collect their percentage of damages if they’re found to be less than 50 or 51% at fault (depending on the state).
  • Contributory negligence: An injured party may only collect damages if they’re found to be 100% not at fault.
Vermont is one of many states that use a partial/modified system of comparative negligence. 
Key Takeaway As long as you’re 50% or less at fault, you’re entitled to at least some damages if you’re in an accident in Vermont.

What is Vermont’s comparative negligence law? 

Vermont’s modified comparative negligence law means that you’re entitled to collect damages after an accident as long as you’re not found to be more than 50% at fault. If the other party is at least 1% more at fault than you, you may be able to collect some damages.

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties? 

Regardless of how many people are involved in an accident, the fault will be divided between them all. Any injured party who is found to be less than 51% at fault has the right to sue for damages.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re in an accident with Drivers A, B, and C. You and Drivers A and B are each considered 10% at fault, and Driver C assumes 70% of the responsibility for the crash. This means you’re entitled to collect 90% of your damages, as are Drivers A and B. Driver C cannot collect any damages because they are more than 51% at fault.
You’re not required to file insurance claims with all involved parties’ providers. In the example above, you could choose to file a claim with Driver C’s insurance only to collect 70% of the damages. This would mean you forfeit your right to collect any damages from Driver A or B.

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

Insurance companies use the evidence collected at the scene of the accident and information contained in police reports to determine fault. This is why you should be sure to collect as much evidence as you can if you’re able.
When you’re at the scene of an accident, be sure to check first that everyone is okay (including yourself) and call 911 if anyone is injured. Then, document as much evidence as you can:
  • Take pictures of the scene and of all visible damage
  • Talk to any witnesses and record their names and contact information
  • Record the
    makes and models
    of all cars involved
  • Note the time of day and the weather conditions
  • If you call the police, be sure to record the police report number and the badge number(s) of the responding officer(s)
The more evidence you collect, the better equipped the insurance companies will be to determine who is most at fault.
Key Takeaway Collecting evidence at the scene of an accident is an important step in ensuring that fault is assigned fairly.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

In modified comparative negligence states like Vermont, you can file a claim with another driver’s insurance provider as long as you’re less than 51% at fault for the accident. You will be awarded damages based on the proportion you’re found responsible for the crash, as long as you’re less than 50% responsible.

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Yes. Insurance companies use a number of demographics, your driving history (including your percentage of fault in accidents), and many other factors to calculate your unique insurance premium. If you’re found at fault for an accident, you could see your premiums go up by 20% or more!
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