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What If I Was Partly at Fault for the Accident?

May 6, 2024 | Auto Accidents

If you were injured in a car crash and you were partly at fault for the collision, you may be wondering whether you can sue for your damages. Importantly, New York follows the rule of comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, you may still be able to recover compensation for the economic and non-economic damages you incurred in an accident — even if you were partly to blame.   

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine in New York that is commonly asserted by defendants in personal injury cases as a defense to liability. It determines the degree of responsibility that each party in an accident holds for the damages the plaintiff suffered. Under this system, a victim can recover compensation for their injuries as long as they were not 100% at fault. In other words, a plaintiff may still be eligible to receive monetary recovery in a personal injury claim if they were 99% to blame for the incident. 

How Does Comparative Negligence Work in a Car Accident Case?

If a defendant raises the defense of comparative negligence, they must show that (1) the plaintiff had an opportunity to act in order to prevent the accident and (2) the plaintiff was more careless than a reasonable person in the same situation would have been under the circumstances. Simply put, the defendant must show that the plaintiff’s actions were a contributing factor to the injuries they sustained. 

Some common examples of driving behaviors that can give rise to comparative negligence in a car crash can include the following:

  • Texting while driving
  • Failure to yield
  • Disobeying traffic laws
  • Failure to brake in time
  • Broken tail lights or brake lights
  • Speeding
  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Improper footwear 
  • Failure to wear glasses 

If the defendant is successful in asserting the defense of comparative negligence, any amount of recovery would be reduced by the plaintiff’s proportion of fault. For example, if it is determined that the plaintiff was 40% responsible for the accident and they were awarded $100,000, they would receive $60,000 in compensation.           

How to Defend Against a Claim of Comparative Negligence

If you’re facing a claim of comparative negligence, a skillful personal injury attorney can develop a strategy to fight back — and maximize your compensation. It’s essential to gather as much evidence as possible to demonstrate the defendant’s fault, including photos, video footage, medical records, and witness statements. In some cases, it may be necessary to bring in an expert witness or accident reconstructionist who can help to establish the facts surrounding how the accident occurred.

Significantly, if you’ve been in an accident where comparative negligence is an issue, it’s vital to be truthful with your attorney. Attempting to conceal the truth or downplay your own negligence can ultimately harm your case. No matter how unfavorable you think the facts are in your claim, a good personal injury attorney will know how to work with them to obtain a positive outcome.      

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney

If you were in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, it’s critical to have a skillful attorney by your side who can protect your rights and help ensure you obtain the compensation to which you’re entitled. Due to our vast experience and deep knowledge, The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown, LLP regularly obtains substantial settlements and jury verdicts for our clients. Located in Manhattan, our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout New York City since 1937. Call to schedule a free consultation at (212) 425-1999 today.




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