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How Do You Know Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident? Comparative and Contributory Negligence.

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If you are ever involved in a car accident, the question of who’s truly at fault can be daunting and difficult to answer. Fortunately, New York operates as a no-fault insurance state, meaning that this system utilizes your own car insurance policy to attain compensation for any medical bills and other financial losses you may sustain, regardless of who was at fault. This insurance structure helps simplify the compensation process post-accident and makes it so that you will only have to deal with our own insurance policy rather than another driver’s.

On the other hand, if you suffered a serious injury during the car accident, your insurance alone may fail to completely cover all your losses, such as lost wages and extensive medical treatment to return you to a state pre-accident. In that instance, it is best to file a personal injury lawsuit. But be forewarned of situations that may arise during litigation, particularly in regard to a charge of negligence.

1. Comparative Negligence

In order for a comparative negligence claim to be heard, the court must consider the following questions:

-Was the defendant negligent?

-Was the defendant’s negligence a substantial factor in causing the accident or injury?

-Was the plaintiff negligent?

-Was the plaintiff’s negligence a substantial factor in causing the accident or injury?
-What are the percentages of fault of both the defendant and the plaintiff?[1]

In states that use the comparative negligence model, each driver in the lawsuit is given a percentage of the blame, meaning that each driver is entitled to collect any damages, minus the amount they contributed to the accident.

To put it plainly, let’s say you were in an accident and your damages were around $100,000. If the other driver was complete, 100% responsible for the entire ordeal, they are responsible to pay the $100,000 in full. If the other driver is found to be 90% responsible for the accident—meaning you were partially at fault—then the other driver would be responsible for $90,000 worth of the damages whereas you would be responsible for the remaining $10,000. In even more drastic circumstances, if it is found that the other driver was 20% responsible for the accident, then they would need to pay $20,000 whereas you would be responsible for $80,000 in damages.

The benefit of New York law is that it is considered a “pure comparative fault” state, meaning that you can still file a claim against a negligent party regardless of the degrees of fault, but that is not the case for states such as New Jersey, which follow a contributory negligence system.

2. Contributory Negligence

These cases are much less common than comparative negligence and are easier to understand. In a contributory negligence model, if it is found that you have even the smallest percentage of fault for the car accident, you cannot collect damages. Note that New Jersey uses a contributory negligence model, meaning that it would be difficult to raise a claim in New Jersey.

3. Know Your Degree of Fault

Navigating your day-to-day life after a car accident can be challenging, especially if you are either worried or unsure how the insurance process works. If you believe that you have any degree of responsibility—or you are confident that all of the responsibility falls on the other driver—if you want to pursue a claim to the fullest, it is best to reach out to an experienced attorney at KI Legal. At KI, we can help you handle the complex legal issues involved in your case, so all you have to do is focus on your recovery.

[1] Rodriguez v. City of New York, 76 N.Y.S.3d 898, 905-06 (2018); see also Derdiarian v. Felix Contracting Corp., 434 N.Y.S.2d 166, 169 (1980).



This information is the most up to date news available as of the date posted. Please be advised that any information posted on the KI Legal Blog or Social Channels is being supplied for informational purposes only and is subject to change at any time. For more information, and clarity surrounding your individual organization or current situation, contact a member of the KI Legal team

KI Legal Personal Injury fights for victims of a wide array of personal injury claims, from Motor Vehicle Accidents to Scaffolding and Ladder Falls to Slip/Trip & Falls, amongst others. By leveraging its multidisciplinary foundation and, with the help of its experienced litigators, KI Legal Personal Injury can fight for the results and compensation that victims deserve without pushing for premature settlements due to financial reasons. This financial paradigm shift swings the pendulum in our favor when it comes to negotiating with insurance carriers, inherently leading to better results for clients. For the latest updates.

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