Comparative & Contributory Fault for New Jersey Personal Injury Cases

Blog,Personal Injury • June 29, 2020

If you have suffered injuries in a crash, the first crucial aspect of your injury claim for compensation is determing liability. That means proving that the other party involved in the crash is responsible for your injuries. In some cases, issues of fault are fairly straightforward, and the real obstacles in your case involve securing a fair settlement for compensation of your injuries. However, one of the more common tactics utilized by insurance company attorneys is to claim that the injured party pursuing the claim is partially responsible for the incident. In certain cases, this argument could prove true. It is not just perfect drivers who are injured in car crashes, for example. Understanding how the legal concept of shared fault can impact your case and the value of your losses is crucial when pursuing an injury claim in New Jersey. 

Regarding injury lawsuits, the term fault has specific legal implications. If a party is at fault, it means that they are responsible for causing some sort of harm — often due to negligence, but sometimes out of reckless or deliberate actions — and could be legally required to compensate those who suffer from their negligence for damages that were caused by it. However, if the crash victim also bears some level of responsibility for the accident, it can have certain consequences for their ability to obtain lost compensation for their injuries and other damages. 

What Is Contributory Negligence?

There are various methods of adjudicating shared liability in injury cases that are determined by state laws. The most straightforward shared fault rule is that of contributory negligence. This means that if the insurance company can convince a jury that the injured party bears any liability for the crash, even if the defendant was much more responsible and played a larger role in the incident, the injured plaintiff will be completely barred from collecting any damages, regardless of the severity of the resulting injuries and other damages. This is only applied in limited jurisdictions, but it could become crucial to keep mind if you travel often. This old-fashioned contributory negligence rule is in play in limited jurisdictions that are not far from New Jersey, specifically Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative & Contributory Fault for New Jersey Personal Injury CasesThe majority of states utilize a more-lenient approach to share fault, employing a variation on the rule of comparative negligence. In its simplest form, comparative negligence states that any party bearing any level of fault for an accident is responsible for a percentage of the other party’s damages in proportion to the responsibility they have for the causing the incident.  

For example, let us say that two drivers are involved in a crash at an intersection. One of the drivers involved ran a red light, while the other was speeding, meaning that the first driver was unable to see him until it was too late to prevent the collision. A jury could find that the driver who ran the red light is 75% at fault for the crash, and the speeding driver is 25% at fault. If each driver incurs $10,000 in injury damages and other damages, the driver who ran the light would be responsible for $7,500 of the speeding driver’s damages, and the other driver would be liable for $2,500 for the driver that ran the light. The two sums would not cancel each other out because it is usually an insurance company that covers these damages. 

Like many other states, New Jersey uses a modified version of the comparative negligence rule. In the Garden State, if a party involved in an accident is at least 50% at fault, he or she is not able to collect damages for injuries and damages resulting from the accident. Essentially, you can only recover compensation for injury damages if you were not the primary party responsible for the incident. If the vehicle collision could we discussed earlier had occurred in New Jersey, only the driver who had been speeding would have been able to recover compensation for his injuries and damages resulting from the crash. The other driver who ran the red light was more than 50% at fault for the crash and would thusly be prevented from recovering damages, but the speeding driver’s damages would still be reduced by the percentage of fault he bore for the crash. This means that after the value of his injuries and damages were calculated 25% of the figure would be subtracted from the damage ward. This would leave him with $7,500 in injury compensation. Most states utilize this modified rule, but some jurisdictions still follow a pure comparative negligence rule, such as New York, so it is worth keeping in mind if you travel north. 

Of course, the best way to avoid grappling with shared fault laws is to drive carefully and safely at all times. If you do this, you will not be at fault, no matter what happens on the road. If you have any further questions about how comparative negligence may impact your case, discuss your case with a New Jersey personal injury lawyer today at Brady Reilly & Cardoso, LLC. 

New Jersey Car Crashes

Car accidents are the leading contributor to death and serious injuries in the United States, with more people dying each year. Even in non-fatal crashes, the resulting injuries can be life-changing, causing victims to be saddled with expensive medical bills while being unable to return to work to cover the costs. Making sure you get the compensation that you need to make a full recovery after a serious New Jersey car accident is critical. 

If injured victims think a reckless driver is responsible for their injuries, they should consult with a New Jersey auto accident lawyer immediately. Brady Reilly & Cardoso, LLC has helped countless victims obtain fair settlements after being injured in a car accident. Contact our law offices today at (201) 997- 0030 to see how we can help.