When you’re injured in a car accident, a key issue in recovering damages is identifying who is at fault. Depending on where the collision occurred, a court may determine fault according to the rules of contributory or comparative negligence.

What is contributory negligence?

The doctrine of contributory negligence prohibits you from recovering damages if you contributed to your injuries in any way. For example, if a court determined that if you were even 1% responsible for the accident, you would not be entitled to damages.

At one time, contributory negligence was the guiding principle in personal injury cases across the U.S., but because this concept is so harsh, only a handful of states (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.) still use it.

What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence rules award compensation that is proportionate to your liability for the accident. There are two types:

  • Pure comparative negligence: In states that follow this rule, any award you might be entitled to is reduced according to your degree of fault. If a court determines that you were 30% responsible for a collision because you were texting when the accident occurred and you would ordinarily be entitled to $100,000, then you would receive $70,000 instead.
  • Modified comparative negligence: Most states have adopted this principle, which only awards compensation if your liability does not exceed a certain threshold. (Depending on the state, the limit can be anywhere from 49% to 51%.) Your award is also reduced according to fault. If you were 40% responsible for injuries valued at $100,000, then you would receive $60,000. However, if you were 52% responsible in a state where the cutoff is 50%, then you would recover nothing.

What is the law in New York?

New York is one of 13 states that follows the pure comparative negligence rule. If you are driving home through the Bronx when another motorist runs through a red light and hits you, then the court will review the circumstances to determine if you were at all culpable. If it comes to light that you were using your phone before the accident occurred, then you may be assigned a degree of liability and have your award reduced accordingly.

The contributory negligence rule can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case, which is why you should always pursue a claim with help from a New York personal injury attorney. The other driver may attempt to downplay their liability by suggesting that your fault was greater than it really was, and an experienced attorney will know how to assemble the evidence needed to refute such allegations and argue for the compensation to which you are entitled.

Contact Jayson Lutzky if you were injured in an accident. Mr. Lutzky is a Bronx, NY lawyer with over 36 years of experience. He has helped many accident victims seek the compensation they deserve to deal with their injuries. Call 718-514-6619 to schedule an appointment.