Posted on Oct 24, 2019

Our roadways are designed to promote safety with practicality, but still today roadway collisions are a prevalent danger faced by Americans in their daily lives. When an accident does happen, often it is the result of a multitude of factors and blame for the accident can regularly be placed on more than one driver.

When a collision does happen and both drivers are found to be partially at fault, Kansas courts will employ a specific framework to evaluate their relative fault in the accident. In fact most states in the U.S. have adopted their own form of this evaluators framework and fault allocation equation. Kansas utilizes a system that is referred to as “modified comparative fault” and is a significant delineation from the pure comparative fault system that is utilized in Missouri.

Modified Comparative Fault

Modified comparative fault is a fault allocation framework that certainly places the viability of a plaintiff’s case in jeopardy when the plaintiff is partially at fault for the accident. With modified comparative fault, essentially if a plaintiff is found to be “more at fault” than the defendant, then the plaintiff will be precluded from collecting the damages as calculated in the trial. Modified comparative fault effectively protects defendants who have caused the plaintiff to suffer damages when the plaintiff is more at fault for the accident than the defendant.

The relevant statute in Kansas, KS Stat § 60-258a, reads in part:

“The contributory negligence of a party in a civil action does not bar that party or its legal representative from recovering damages for negligence resulting in death, personal injury, property damage or economic loss, if that party's negligence was less than the causal negligence of the party or parties against whom a claim is made, but the award of damages to that party must be reduced in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to that party.”

Examples

The following are some examples of the practical effect of Kansas’ modified comparative fault allocation framework:

  1. Driver A and Driver B are in a car accident. Driver A files suit against Driver B. Driver A’s damages are determined to be $100,000. At trial, the jury determines Driver A to be 20% at fault and Driver B to be 80% at fault. Total damages due to Driver A: $80,000.

  2. Driver A and Driver B are in a car accident. Driver A files suit against Driver B. Driver A’s damages are determined to be $100,000. At trial, the jury determines Driver A to be 70% at fault and Driver B to be 30% at fault. Total damages due to Driver A: $0.

  3. Driver A and Driver B are in a car accident. Driver A files suit against Driver B. Driver A’s damages are determined to be $100,000. At trial, the jury determines Driver A to be 51% at fault and Driver B to be 49% at fault. Total damages due to Driver A: $0.

As these examples illustrate, the determination of fault in Kansas may completely bar the plaintiff from recovering for any damages that they incurred. The rule in Kansas may preclude the plaintiff’s claim whereas in Missouri they may have been able to collect an award for their damages.

Note: This article is intended to provide a general summation on a legal topic and should not be construed as legal advice in any manner. Readers should consider speaking with an attorney prior to acting upon the information contained in this publication. Nothing in this article or database may be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship.