What is Comparative Negligence in New York Personal Injury Cases?

If you have been injured in a New York City auto accident and you believe that another party was at fault, you may file a claim against that party to recover damages. However, the defendant may argue that your behavior contributed to the accident. If this happens, the court will consider your level of responsibility in causing the accident.

New York follows a system of comparative negligence to determine the amount of damages you can recover in a case like this. Under this system, if you are found to be partially responsible for causing the accident, your share of liability will be deducted from your final damage award. Comparative negligence applies to most personal injury cases in New York City, including car accidents, slip and fall accidents and wrongful death cases.

For example, let’s assume you get involved in a serious car accident while driving in NYC. The other driver is texting and runs a red light, and hits you as a result. However, at the time of the accident, you were speeding. Under New York law, you can still recover damages from the texting driver (in proportion to their share of fault) even though you weren’t fully complying with traffic rules at the time of the accident.

Seatbelts and Comparative Negligence

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The seat belt defense is a common issue in personal injury claims in New York. It asserts that in case of a rear end or side-impact collision, you cannot be fully compensated for your injuries when you were not using a seat belt during the time of an accident. The failure to wear a seatbelt gives the negligent driver an argument to say that you would have escaped injury or your body would not have taken the same kind of hit that you actually experienced. You used bad judgment in leaving yourself open to this kind of liability.

People often believe that the driver who rear-ends another motorist is 100% at fault for the accident. But suppose the driver in the front vehicle was not wearing their seatbelt at the time of an accident. In that case, the at-fault motorist and their lawyer can raise the seatbelt defense and seek to have it factored into any claim for damages you may have. For example, if your total damages are worth $100,000 and you were found 20% at fault for failing to wear a seat belt, your final award would be reduced by $20,000.

In New York City, seat belt use is a legal requirement for both drivers and passengers in a vehicle. Defendants can raise this defense if they can prove that the plaintiffs’ injuries were elevated because of not wearing a seat belt and that the plaintiff could have been protected much better by wearing a seat belt.

Poor Road Conditions and Comparative Negligence

Each city, county, and state has a specific responsibility to maintain roads. A county may bear responsibility for snow removal, while a state department of transportation might be responsible for filling potholes. Figuring out which agency is responsible for a particular road is essential for a proper response, such as filing a complaint with the appropriate authority.

To make a case against the agency responsible for road maintenance, you must present evidence that shows a connection between the agency’s negligence and your injuries. The evidence must show that the agency was aware of the problem with the road, had a reasonable time to repair it, but did not take proper steps, and as a result, you were injured, or your property was damaged.

Car accidents due to poorly maintained roads occur more often in the countryside, from inner cities to rural highways. These types of accidents are generally not as clear-cut as other car accidents. In New York, if the plaintiff violated any laws, they will be held responsible for the percentage of their fault. This means that even if the defendant did breach their duty of care to the plaintiff, the plaintiff is still accountable for damages beyond those caused by the breach.

An example would be if a driver is speeding and hits a pothole, resulting in an accident and injury. In that case, the driver may be held liable for contributory negligence. This would be true even if it can be shown that the driver would not have hit the pothole had it not been present. The contributory negligence of speeding would offset some part of the liability of the municipality for failing to maintain its roads properly. If the defendant shows that you were negligent too, you could be found partially responsible for your own damages.

If you are involved in an automobile accident, the laws of New York State require that a government body be notified and that specific procedures be followed. Failure to comply with these laws may disqualify you from receiving compensation for your injuries. This is why you must consult competent car accidents attorneys at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP. Our legal team is well versed in notice procedures and rules, which can make all the difference in obtaining maximum compensation for you.

What If More Than Two Defendants Are Liable?

If there are two or more liable defendants, New York courts will follow a joint and several liability concept for economic losses. Joint and several liability means that all parties must pay the total economic loss amount. Non-economic losses (i.e., those damages that do not have a dollar value associated with them, such as pain and suffering) are the only exception to joint and several liability. If you are found to be less than 50% at fault, then you will only be responsible for paying up to your proportional share of the non-economic loss amount, based on your percentage of fault.

Failing to report the accident can result in you being held partially responsible and paying compensation. Make sure you have documented your actions on the day of the accident. This should include:

  1. Write down what you remember about the accident as soon as you can after it happens. Your memory is best immediately after an accident, and with each passing day, your memory will fade.
  2. Take pictures of the scene of the accident, the damage to all vehicles involved in the accident, and any injuries you suffered.
  3. Obtaining copies of reports made by police officers or other first responders who came to the accident scene.
  4. Retaining receipts for any expenses that you incur related to the accident, such as medical expenses or car repairs.
  5. Always remain truthful and consistent in your explanations, even if you need to admit that you were partly responsible for the accident. If your story varies, you will be seen as untrustworthy.
  6. Gathering information from witnesses who saw what happened during and immediately before the accident occurred. You must get this information before witnesses have time to talk to one another so that their memories are not influenced by one another’s stories about what happened during the accident.

Choose Skilled Personal Injury Attorneys to Help Establish Liability

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There are several ways in which an accident attorney can help you establish liability, but above all else, they will help you understand what is required. The first step is to obtain the evidence. This is done by way of a thorough investigation. The investigation will include gathering information regarding the accident, speaking with witnesses, and reviewing pertinent documentation. In many cases, it will also include hiring experts to review the case and any other evidence that can be collected.

Once all this information has been collected, your personal injury attorney will utilize it to determine who may be liable for your injuries. It’s vital to remember that this does not necessarily mean that they will be held responsible for your damages in court but that they may be held liable in other ways. For instance, the insurance company may make a settlement offer based on their findings, or they may use their findings to file a lawsuit against one or both parties involved in the accident.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in an accident due to another’s fault, then do not hesitate to contact committed New York City car accident attorneys immediately at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP. We will be able to review your case and determine if you have a valid claim for compensation after considering all aspects of the accident.

Consult with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP

Under New York law, if you are injured in an accident, you have the right to pursue compensation against the party responsible for your injuries. The amount of settlement available in your case will depend on several factors, including the extent of your injuries and how much of the blame you bear for the accident.

The skilled attorneys at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP can help you get the compensation you deserve. We know how traumatic being injured in an accident can be — especially when it wasn’t your fault — so we go above and beyond to ensure our clients get the representation they need. Our attorneys have years of experience dealing with personal injury law, giving us the necessary insight and knowledge to handle even the most complex cases.

We work on a contingency basis and don’t charge any fees unless we win the case for you. To learn more about how we can help after an accident, call 1-800-660-2264 or reach out to us online.