Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

August 1999


Published in Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 23, No. 5 (1999), pp. 577–596. Copyright © 1999 American Psychology-Law Society, Division 41 of the American Psychology Association. Published by Springer-Verlag. Used by permission.


Two experiments were conducted to ascertain the effects of comparative negligence on damage awards. Participants awarded damages for a mock medical malpractice case in which the level of the plaintiff’s negligence was varied. Both experiments showed that damage awards were doubly discounted for partially negligent plaintiffs. Experiment 1 also found that the responses of college students did not differ from those of people who had been called for jury duty. Experiment 2 examined four components of the damage award and showed that the reduction due to the level of the plaintiff’s negligence occurred only in damages for bodily harm. Implications for the judicial system are discussed.