Comparative negligence helps establish how at fault each person in an accident was. Because so many vehicle accident situations result from two people (rather than just one) who were not paying attention, breaking traffic laws, or generally behaving negligently, this law helps establish who was more at fault so as to more fairly divide claims.
The general idea has been applied in multiple ways throughout time and across the globe. Below we’ll take a brief look at what comparative negligence is and how it’s used, some similar ideas, and how it might apply to a car accident. If you’ve recently experienced an accident, understanding these rules is a good idea.
What is Comparative Negligence
Cornell University explains comparative negligence as “A tort rule for allocating damages when both parties are at least somewhat at fault.” Usually, they continue, “In a situation where both the plaintiff and the defendant were negligent, the jury allocates fault, usually as a percentage.”
So let’s say a jury finds the plaintiff 20 percent at fault and the defendant 80 percent at fault. In that case, each of you would pay your share of the others damages according to this percentage, or to the amount you were reponsible for the accident that took place.
Contributory negligence refers to a person’s duty to protect themselves. That is to say, if a person is negligent in self-protection, then they “contributed” to the accident, and therefore, cannot recover as much as they would otherwise be able to. Some people take issue with this law because “a plaintiff was totally barred from recovery if they were in any way negligent in causing the accident, even if the negligence of the defendant was much more serious,” explains Cornell University. This is deemed unfair by many, because even if a defendant was somewhat negligent if they were considerably less negligent, they should still receive some benefits. Therefore, the rule has been switched out in almost all jurisdictions in favor of comparative negligence.
The rule of comparative fault is also somewhat similar. Claims Journal explains that comparative fault “allows a damaged party to recover even if it is 99 percent at fault, although the recovery is reduced by the damaged party’s degree of fault.” In other words, even if the accident was almost completely caused by one person, they can still try to recover some damages for the accident.
Comparative Negligence in a Car Accident
If you have recently been in a car accident, you are likely looking to establish who was at fault so you can be compensated for any damages you incurred to your car, your insurance rates, your own personal body or the bodies of anyone else who was in your car at the time of the accident. If you want to get the most compensation, you’ll want to do everything you can to show you weren’t negligent.
Even if you think the accident was completely the other person’s fault, you may end up paying some damages if they can show that you were violating any traffic laws or in any way behaving negligent. In the event that you think you may be responsible for at least part of the accident, it is still a good idea to seek damages using comparative negligence, because if you are found to be less negligent than the other party, the result of the suit could be net compensation for you. And New York is a state that recognizes comparative negligence, so it’s worth going to court over an accident even if you might have been mostly at fault.
If you’re wondering what kind of compensation you might win for a recent accident, speak to knowledgeable attorney Ivan Diamond who can help you understand comparative negligence and your options overall.