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When You Are Partially Responsible for Your Injuries

What Happens If Your Carelessness Helped Cause an Accident?

When You Are Partially Responsible for Your InjuriesThere’s an old saying that it “takes two to tango.” While that may not always be the case with a personal injury, it’s not uncommon for an accident to happen because both parties engaged in negligence or carelessness. For example, suppose you were in a motor vehicle accident caused when another person ran a stop sign or red light. At the time of the accident, you weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Chances are you would have suffered injuries, even if you’d been buckled in, but the other party contends that your injuries were worse because you didn’t have your seat belt on. What happens in such a situation?

Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence

For most of the history of personal injury law, including that of New Jersey, the legal principle governing such a circumstance was known as “contributory negligence.” Under the concept of contributory negligence, if it could be shown that you contributed in any way to causing the accident where you suffered injury, you could not recover anything for your losses. When this rule prevailed, defense attorneys would commonly look for any indication that you had acted carelessly or unreasonably, claiming that you were not entitled to recovery. Such an approach led to frequent miscarriages of justice, where persons who were grossly negligent had no responsibility for injuries to persons whose careless was insignificant or inconsequential.

About one hundred years ago, courts and legislatures across the country, recognizing the inherent injustices brought about by the concept of contributory negligence, began to replace it with the legal principle of “comparative negligence.”

With comparative negligence, the court first establishes the full amount of your losses—let’s assume your total injuries amounted to $500,000. Next, the court decides the degree to which you were responsible for causing the accident, expressed as a percentage of liability—again, suppose the court finds you 25% liable. The court will then reduce your total damage award by your degree of liability. Your $500,000 award will be reduced by $125,000 (25%) and you will receive $375,000.

States take two different approaches to comparative negligence:

  • Pure comparative negligence, where you will receive something regardless of your degree of liability, as long as you can show liability on behalf of the other party
  • Modified comparative negligence, where your liability must be below a certain threshold (usually 50%), or you cannot recover for your losses.

New Jersey is a modified comparative negligence state.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 / 856-600-HURT to schedule an appointment to discuss your personal injury claim. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request. We can come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

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