Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases

Lever & Ecker, PLLC August 3, 2020 Car Accidents

What are your legal rights if you were injured in a car accident in New York but may have been – or were – partially at fault for the collision? If you are asking this question, you are not alone.

Questions of shared liability, or comparative negligence, come up frequently in the context of car accident claims. If you were injured in a collision, but caused or contributed to it in some way, you may still be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries, provided the other driver or drivers were also at fault.

Claiming that the victim was partially at fault for the accident is a common strategy employed by insurance companies. After all, if lawyers for the insurance company can prove that you contributed to the crash, they insurance company may have to pay less in damages – or even nothing at all.

Attorneys at Lever & Ecker, PLLC have the experience to anticipate, respond to and overcome claims of comparative negligence in car accident cases. If you were injured in a motor vehicle collision, regardless of whether you believe you may have contributed to its occurrence, don’t hesitate to contact us at (914) 288-9191 for a free case review.

How Does New York’s Comparative Negligence Law Apply to Car Accident Claims?

Different states have different laws regarding shared liability when two or more drivers contribute to a collision. New York has adopted the law of “pure comparative fault,” which affords the greatest protection to injured drivers.

Under New York’s pure comparative fault law:

“In any action to recover damages for personal injury . . . the culpable conduct attributable to the claimant . . . including contributory negligence . . . shall not bar recovery, but the amount of damages otherwise recoverable shall be diminished in the proportion which the culpable conduct attributable to the claimant . . . bears to the culpable conduct which caused the damages.”

In other words, if you are partially at fault in a car accident, the amount you are entitled to recover for your losses will be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault.

The New York Comparative Fault Law in a Car Accident Claim: An Example

Let’s assume you were seriously injured in a t-bone collision at an intersection. You hire a law firm to represent you, and an investigation uncovers evidence that the other driver was distracted when he or she ran a red light and entered the intersection without the right of way. However, the investigation also reveals that you were driving 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit at the time of the crash.

In this type of scenario, it is likely that the distracted driver would be deemed primarily at fault. But, based on the circumstances, you could be deemed partially at fault as well.

For the sake of this example, we will assume that a jury found the distracted driver 80% at fault, and found that you were 20% at fault. If your total damages from the crash were $100,000, then you would be entitled to recover 80% of that amount (with the 20% reduction for your liability), or $80,000.

What if you were the driver who was primarily at fault? In this scenario, New York’s pure comparative fault law would still entitle you to partial compensation. Thus, if you were 80 percent at fault, then your recovery would be reduced to $20,000.

What If the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Accuses Me of Being Partially at Fault?

As noted above, the insurance companies frequently accuse injured drivers of being responsible for the collision that occurred. That is why it is so important to hire a care accident attorney, to make sure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.

Oftentimes, the insurance companies’ allegations of comparative fault are misguided, or just plain wrong. While the insurance company might accuse you of being partially at fault, an investigation could very well prove that you played no part in causing the collision, and are therefore entitled to full compensation for the damages that the other driver or drivers caused. Furthermore, even if you were partially at fault, you will need to ensure that fault is attributed appropriately between you and the other drivers. In any case, you will need to work with your attorney in order to calculate your total financial and non-financial losses.

What If the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Refuses to Settle?

If the other driver’s insurance company insists on trying to apportion more liability to you than is appropriate, or otherwise refuses to offer a fair settlement, then you may need to take your case to trial, for the judge or jury to apply New York’s pure comparative fault law and determine how much you are entitled to recover. An experienced car accident attorney will best know how to represent you and explain the case to the judge or jury, for your benefit.

Discuss Your Case with a New York Car Accident Lawyer for Free

If you were injured in a car accident in New York and you are concerned that comparative fault could play a role in your insurance claim, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with one of our highly experienced attorneys in confidence, call (914) 288-9191 or inquire online today.

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