Comparative Fault in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

  • By Joe Owen Law Firm Pllc
  • 03 Jan, 2018

The aftermath of an injury caused by another person (or people) can be both physically and mentally taxing. Trying to focus on healing while wondering how you're going to pay bills, care for your family, or return to work is stressful.

This stress can be compounded when the responsible party (or their insurance company) tries to claim that you were partially at fault in the circumstances that led to your injury, diminishing the amount you're offered in settlement of your claims.

This principle, known as comparative fault, has the potential to reduce your recovery if you're deemed to be partially (or totally) responsible for your own injuries, but this is the defendant's burden to prove. Read on to learn more about New York State's comparative and contributory fault laws, as well as how a defendant's allegations that you share the blame for your injury could affect your case.

What is Comparative Fault?

Each state has its own comparative fault or contributory negligence laws. In a small minority of states, this law is strict: any plaintiff who is deemed to share any responsibility for their own injuries in an accident is prevented from recovering from the defendant.

Most states, including New York, take a more modified approach to comparative fault, permitting recovery even if the plaintiff is deemed partially at fault, but limiting this recovery to the percentage of damages that can be directly attributed to the defendant.

For example, if you were struck and injured by another driver's vehicle after turning out in front of them and are deemed 35 percent at fault in the accident, you'll only be able to recover 65 percent of your total amount of damages from the defendant. If your medical bills, lost wages, and other costs total $100,000, the maximum amount you could be awarded — even if you prevail at trial — is $65,000.

And if you're held to be 51 percent (or more) at fault, you may be barred from recovering anything at all, under the assumption that the accident would not have happened but for your own negligence.

How Could Comparative Fault Allegations Affect Your Case?

Comparative fault is an affirmative defense, which means it must be raised by the defendant. If the defendant disclaims his or her own liability but doesn't allege that you share fault in the accident, comparative fault won't come into play and you won't be required to rebut evidence of your own responsibility. 

However, if the defendant does raise a comparative fault defense, you'll need to be able to provide evidence showing that your actions did not increase the risk of harm. This evidence can take a variety of forms, from cell phone records indicating that you weren't using your phone while behind the wheel to medical testimony proving your vision, hearing, or other senses are well within the acceptable range. 

You may also need to subpoena witnesses to testify, from other passengers who were in the vehicle to eyewitnesses who were at the scene of the accident. The more evidence you can collect in your favor, the more persuasive both your case-in-chief and your rebuttal to the comparative negligence allegations will be.

Because the burden of proof in civil cases (like personal injury cases) is lower than that of criminal cases, you'll only need to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was 100 percent at fault.

If you've been injured in an accident and are wondering how to proceed, contact an experienced attorney or law firm as soon as possible. Comparative fault allegations can take a significant bite out of your recovery, and having a legal team on your side is the best way to protect your rights. 

By Joe Owen Law Firm Pllc 03 Jan, 2018
After you have suffered an injury, you may begin to wonder whether you are able to sue. Some accidents simply happen with no one at fault. In other accidents, the judge may not be able to rule out that you were at fault. However, depending on the facts of the case, you may be able to prove that a business owner is at fault and that you deserve compensation.
By Joe Owen Law Firm Pllc 03 Jan, 2018

The aftermath of an injury caused by another person (or people) can be both physically and mentally taxing. Trying to focus on healing while wondering how you're going to pay bills, care for your family, or return to work is stressful.

This stress can be compounded when the responsible party (or their insurance company) tries to claim that you were partially at fault in the circumstances that led to your injury, diminishing the amount you're offered in settlement of your claims.

This principle, known as comparative fault, has the potential to reduce your recovery if you're deemed to be partially (or totally) responsible for your own injuries, but this is the defendant's burden to prove. Read on to learn more about New York State's comparative and contributory fault laws, as well as how a defendant's allegations that you share the blame for your injury could affect your case.

By Joe Owen Law Firm Pllc 12 Oct, 2017

If you have been involved in a car accident that has left you injured, you may be looking into getting a personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney can help you bring a personal injury case against the party or parties responsible for your injuries. You are allowed to recover money for lost income, medical expenses, permanent injuries, disfigurement and pain and suffering.

The majority of personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to those who are injured. This allows them to determine if they want to take on your case and gives you the opportunity to determine if this is the attorney you wish to work with. If you have a consultation scheduled, it is important to bring along as much information as you can. Here are a few of the items you should bring if you have them.

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By Joe Owen Law Firm Pllc 27 Sep, 2017
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