Shared Fault in New York
When filing a lawsuit in New York State, it is important to first consider how the defendant might respond to your claim. He or she could deny it, settle, or even try to place all or part of the blame on the plaintiff, and that is perfectly legal so long as it can be proven.
Most personal injury cases depend on answering the question of who is to blame for causing harm to another individual and who was negligent. The answer, though, is not always black and white and these cases cannot always be evenly divided by who was right and who was wrong. In some cases, a plaintiff can be found to be partially negligent or responsible for causing his or her own damages, in which case the defendant would not be obligated to pay as much in damages as he or she would have if solely negligent or any at all.
To determine who is at fault for certain damages, the plaintiff must prove a certain level of negligence performed by the defendant and the defendant can counter the claim by proving that the plaintiff was at least partially to blame. New York’s court system refers to this shared fault or blame as comparative or contributory negligence.
This type of negligence places a very specific amount—a certain percentage—of blame on each party. This percentage dictates how much each party may have to pay in damages. From the plaintiff’s standpoint, if he or she is found a certain percentage to blame for damages suffered, the amount of compensation he or she is entitled to will decrease by that same percentage. For instance, in many car accidents, it is easy to understand how a plaintiff’s actions may have contributed to the accident, thus reducing the damages recovered.
While New York State no longer uses the concept of contributory negligence in analyzing a case, some states still do. Contributory negligence is more extreme than comparative negligence in that it states that if a plaintiff negligently contributed to his or her own injuries in any way, then he or she has no right to request compensation for damages that the defendant may have also contributed to.
These rules vary from state to state. For this reason, it is important to seek guidance from an experienced New York personal injury lawyer who can advise you on the best path to take regarding your personal injury case. The attorneys at our Brooklyn law firm, Goldberg Sager & Associates, are skilled in handling personal injury matters, especially car accident cases, involving comparative negligence and can explain to you the counterclaims your case may face. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call 718-514-9516.