Not all accidents or acts of negligence are entirely the fault of one person or entity. Sometimes a victim holds some degree of responsibility for their own injury. But should this prevent someone from recovering damages from the party that is mostly at fault for their injury? In New York, the answer is no. Even if you have some responsibility for your own injury, you may still be able to recover under the rule of comparative negligence.
What is Comparative Negligence?
New York is one of 13 states that applies the rule of comparative negligence. The comparative negligence statute (found in New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules section 1411) states that when both a plaintiff and a defendant in a case are negligent, the court must determine each party’s percentage of fault and award any damages proportionally.
For example, a jury in a car accident case finds that a plaintiff sustained $100,000 in damages. The jury also finds that the defendant in the case was 80% at fault for the accident (for running a red light) and the plaintiff was 20% at fault (for talking on a cell phone). In this case, the plaintiff would receive $80,000 in damages from the defendant under the rule of comparative negligence.
New York has a “pure” comparative negligence rule, meaning that a plaintiff can recover from a defendant even if the plaintiff was mostly to blame for the injury. In the above example, if a jury found that the plaintiff was 99% at fault for the accident and the defendant was 1% at fault, the plaintiff could still recover $1,000 in damages from the defendant.
How is Comparative Negligence Different from Contributory Negligence?
Five jurisdictions in the United States follow the rule of contributory negligence. Under the rule of contributory negligence, an injured party can be barred from receiving any damages for an injury if he or she contributed to the injury in any way. Even if a jury found that the victim was only 1% at fault for the injury, the victim will not be able to recover any damages against the party that was 99% at fault. The contributory negligence rule is very unfair to injured victims and makes a personal injury case an uphill battle.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
While the comparative negligence rule is helpful to injured victims, it can make a case more complex. That’s why if you’ve been injured in an accident you should consult with an attorney. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience helping injured New Yorkers. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MED-LAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits available. Se habla espaňol.