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Motorcycle Accident Injuries in New Jersey

What Happens When Both Parties Are at Fault?

Motorcycle Accident Injuries in New JerseyMost motorcycle accident claims are based on a legal theory of negligence. In essence, negligence occurs when a person acts carelessly, contrary to the behavior that society expects from a “reasonable person.”

Furthermore, though many accidents are caused entirely by the wrongful acts of one person, it’s frequently the case that both parties share responsibility. For example, a motorcyclist might exceed the speed limit to get through an intersection before the light changes at the same time that another motorist pulls into the path of the bike without looking. How is liability determined when both parties contribute to a wreck?

Contributory and Comparative Negligence in New Jersey

For much of the early history of the state of New Jersey, the legal principle of contributory negligence applied to personal injury claims. Under that legal theory, if a person seeking damages for a personal injury contributed to causing the accident in any way or to any degree, the person had no right to recover for any losses.

As contributory negligence evolved over the years, defense attorneys looked for any evidence to suggest even the slightest degree of carelessness by the injured party. The application of contributory negligence was often perceived to be harsh and unfair, allowing grossly negligent defendants to sometimes escape liability for seriously injuring a person who contributed to causing the accident in an insignificant way.

Around the turn of the 20th century, states started to replace the concept of contributory negligence with comparative negligence. New Jersey now applies that legal principle.

With the comparative negligence approach, the court first determines the full amount of the injured party’s losses, and then allocates to each party a percentage of responsibility for the accident. The damage award is then reduced by the injured party’s percentage of liability. For example, if you’re seriously hurt in a motorcycle accident and suffer $1,000,000 in losses, but the court determines you were 10% responsible, you would recover only $900,000.

There is another wrinkle, though. In states like New Jersey, which take a “modified comparative negligence” approach, a party may only recover damages if his or her responsibility is determined to be less than 50%.

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