Determining Who Is At Fault
At times, I have been contacted by a prospective client who was injured in an accident which was caused in part by his own careless actions. Unlike an auto accident involving a rear end collision where the liability rests 100% with the driver who causes the collision, there are instances when fault is apportioned to the various parties involved. This apportionment of fault is known as comparative negligence under New Jersey law. In essence, the law requires the trier of fact, the jury, to determine among the parties in the lawsuit the percentage of fault (negligence) to each party. The concept of comparative negligence is routinely applied in fall down cases. By way of example, if an injured party falls as a result of a pothole in a parking lot in a strip mall and sustains an injury there invariably will be an issue of negligence attributable to the injured party. (i.e. if the injured party was paying attention to where he was walking he would have seen the hole and avoided the accident.)
In instances where the plaintiff (injured party) is found to be partially negligent and, therefore, partially responsible for his own injuries, the law allows the plaintiff to recover damages for injuries sustained based upon the percentage of negligence attributable to the defendant. In other words, if the plaintiff is determined to be 25% at fault and the defendant is 75% at fault, any money damages awarded by a jury would be molded to reflect the percentage of negligence attributable to the parties. If a jury awards $100,000 with an allocation of negligence of 25% to plaintiff and 75% to the defendant, then the $100,000 awarded would be adjusted to $75,000 by the Court. (75% of $100,000 = $75,000). The one caveat under New Jersey law in regard to comparative negligence is if the negligence of the plaintiff is greater than the negligence of the defendant, then there would be no recovery. Simply stated the defendant’s negligence has to be 50% or greater to have any liability at all. If a plaintiff is found 51% negligent and the defendant 49% negligent, there would be no recovery. In matters involving comparative negligence, the facts of each case have to be evaluated by a qualified lawyer to determine whether a claim may be pursued. If you have been injured in an accident and even if you believe that you may be partially responsible for the happening of the accident, please contact our office today so that we may evaluate your potential case.