When you’re seeking compensation for car accident injuries, you’re going to hear the term “comparative negligence” used a lot. If settlement negotiations fail and your case proceeds to court, the judge hearing your case will have to determine which party is at fault or, if both share the blame, the extent to which each person is liable.
In New York, the latter doctrine is called comparative negligence. For example, if the other driver was speeding and you failed to use your turn signal, causing them to rear-end you, both parties are technically at fault. In some states, any fault on the part of the plaintiff can prevent them from collecting damages, but in New York, the court will use this information when deciding how much you are entitled to in damages, if anything.
The origins of the comparative negligence rule
The concept of comparative negligence derives from a stricter defense known as “contributory negligence.” This rule states that if an injured party in a motor vehicle accident contributed in any way to the crash, they were completely barred from recovering compensation, even if they were only 1% at fault.
Today, only four states (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia) and the District of Columbia still follow this pure contributory negligence rule. All others observe some degree of the comparative negligence defense.
How comparative negligence can apply to your case
With comparative negligence, the amount of damages you receive will depend on the percentage of blame assigned to you. If, for example, you were jaywalking in downtown Manhattan and struck by a speeding car and demanded $20,000 in damages, you could be deemed 45% at fault if the driver’s attorney proved that at the time of the accident, you were wearing headphones that blocked out the car’s horn and did not look both ways before you crossed the street. A judge would, therefore, award you only 55% of the amount demanded, or $11,000 in total.
This example helps to show how the comparative negligence rule can impact the outcome of your personal injury claim. This approach is considered more flexible and fair compared to the contributory negligence rule, which can leave an injured plaintiff saddled with high medical costs for an accident they are not even primarily responsible for.
When you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, the first thing you need to do is reach out to an experienced New York personal injury attorney who is familiar with the state’s comparative negligence rule for a case evaluation. Your attorney will give their opinion on how the rule may apply to your case and take all recommended steps to maximize your recovery. Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx accident lawyer. He has 35 years of experience and has helped recover millions of dollars in compensation for his clients over the years. Call 718-514-6619 to learn more about your options if you have been injured. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com for additional information.