What Is Comparative Negligence?
It is important to realize that even when liability has been proven against the other party in a motor vehicle accident or another personal injury case, the inquiry does not end there under the law in New York. The reason for this is that in the State of New York, people who have been the victim of an accident may also have the duty to act reasonably as well under the prevailing circumstances despite that someone else has been found at fault for the accident. This is especially true for motor vehicle accidents if you are operating a vehicle and have been involved in an accident with another driver(s). Therefore, even if a jury has made a determination that a defendant was negligent and responsible for causing an accident, that same jury will have the responsibility to determine whether or not you, as a separate individual involved in the accident as well, bear any percentage of liability or responsibility for contributing to the happening of the accident.
In plain English, this means that a jury has the right to potentially find a defendant only partially responsible for an accident and you, as a separate individual also involved in the accident, partially at fault as well. For example, if a jury finds that the defendant and the plaintiff were equally at fault, then they would report back that each party was fifty (50%) percent responsible. However, if a jury found that one party was more at fault, the jury would assign a higher percentage to that party and a lower percentage to the other party, with the total of the percentages equaling one hundred (100%) percent. The jury always has to assign liability/fault which totals 100% whether it is all attributable to one person or more than one person.
Therefore, any combination of percentages between the parties is possible as long as the total of one hundred (100%) percent is reached. Very importantly, if the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for causing the accident, then whatever amount of money is awarded to the plaintiff for his or her injuries, harms and losses will also be reduced in proportion to the percentage of liability found against the plaintiff. Therefore, if a jury awarded a plaintiff driver $100,000 for his or her injuries, that award would have to be reduced to $50,000 if the same jury found that the plaintiff driver was fifty (50%) percent responsible for their motor vehicle accident.
Obviously, it would be an extremely rare situation if a passenger involved in a motor vehicle accident was found to be negligent in as much as a passenger has no responsibility with respect to the operation of a vehicle and was not driving, and therefore, did not contribute to any fault for the happening of the accident. However, a passenger may have a responsibility to utilize a seatbelt under New York’s seatbelt laws which could result in a jury finding that a passenger did not use a seatbelt, and if so, certain injuries and damages could have been avoided. In this case, a jury may award significantly fewer damages to a passenger who was not wearing a seatbelt as required under the law.
If you have been seriously injured in an accident, comparative negligence may play a major role in the outcome in your case. An experienced attorney will take this into account while representing you. Learn more about comparative negligence during a free consultation, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C., at 212-689-5000 to schedule an appointment and begin discussing your options.