The subject of fault can be particularly fickle, especially in cases involving contributory negligence. So, what is contributory negligence in New Jersey, and how does it work?
New Jersey’s contributory negligence laws can reduce compensation for victims who share fault for their injuries, even if those injuries were largely caused by another party. In these instances, compensation is lowered proportionally to the plaintiff’s fault. While contributory negligence might be applied to various cases, it most commonly becomes a factor in car accident claims and other similar personal injury lawsuits. If you are at risk of New Jersey’s fault laws impacting your claim, you can argue against assertions that you contributed to your injuries by submitting proof of a defendant’s fault.
To discuss your case for free with our New Jersey personal injury lawyers, call Legal Care now at (732) 838-9769.
How Does Contributory Negligence Work in New Jersey?
When an accident occurs that causes injury to one party, the negligence of all involved parties can be evaluated, including the victims. This is known as contributory negligence in New Jersey.
In New Jersey, contributory negligence will not completely bar a victim from recovery of compensation in all cases. So, if you also acted negligently in causing your injuries, you may still be able to file a lawsuit against the person mostly responsible for your damages. That said, litigation will only be permissible if a victim’s negligence does not outweigh a defendant’s. According to N.J.S.A. § 2A:15-5.1, long as you are not more than 50% at fault for an accident or its outcome, you can file a lawsuit in New Jersey.
When it comes to determining the compensatory damages a victim receives in such a lawsuit, New Jersey uses a modified comparative negligence standard. This means that the judge or jury will consider all of the damages that should be available in your case and then factor in your percentage of negligence. For example, suppose you would have been awarded $100,000 in economic damages but were found to be 30% liable for your injuries. In that case, you would only recover $70,000.
Many victims are unaware of contributory negligence laws or the fact that such rules might hurt their chances recovery following an accident. Preparing your case for the possibility of such arguments from a defendant is important so that you recover full payment for your damages in New Jersey.
Cases that Often Involve Contributory Negligence in New Jersey
Various types of personal injury cases might involve contributory negligence. Most commonly, contributory negligence factors into car accidents and other motor vehicle accident claims.
Sometimes, cases are relatively cut and dry, and it is clear that the defendant is totally to blame for the victim’s injuries. Other cases are more complex. For example, say you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of an auto accident in New Jersey. Then suppose the injuries you sustained were exacerbated because you did not have on a seat belt. In that case, the court might decide that you somewhat contributed to your injuries, lowering your compensation.
Or, suppose you were crossing the street as a pedestrian and did not look both ways before doing so. If a driver did not stop, they could still be liable for a portion of your damages, but your compensation might be reduced since you did not take the proper precautions as a pedestrian.
Contributory negligence might also apply to cases involving motorcyclists or bicyclists who did not have on helmets during an accident, sustaining possibly preventable head injuries, among other injuries.
Exercising caution at all times is important, as is responding properly after an accident, whether it be an auto accident or a slip and fall on another person’s property. Under no circumstances should you accept full or partial fault for your injuries if you require compensation.
Arguments that Work Against Contributory Negligence in New Jersey
Suppose a negligent party files a contributory negligence claim against you or attempts to argue that you contributed to your injuries during the course of your compensation claim. In that case, there are certain tactics our Jersey City personal injury lawyers can use to safeguard your access to compensatory damages.
You might be able to use the last clear chance rule to undermine assertions of contributory negligence in New Jersey. This common law doctrine dictates that whichever party has the last clear chance to avoid injury and fails to do so is liable for a victim’s injuries. Let’s refer to the example above involving the pedestrian who failed to look both ways before crossing the street. If the negligent driver clearly saw the victim in the middle of the road and was speeding at the time and did not slow down, giving the victim no chance to evade being struck, the driver would have had the last clear chance to avoid the accident.
Victims can also submit evidence that proves they did not contribute to their damages. Statements from medical experts can confirm that victims could have sustained the same injuries, whether they acted negligently or not. Surveillance footage can show an accident as it happened, eliminating any questions about a victim’s partial negligence.
Victims can get ahead of contributory negligence claims by properly documenting their accidents. For example, when victims call the police or report their injuries to the negligent parties right away, the events of the incidents will be recorded. Waiting to document an accident might enable a defendant to argue that you contributed to your injuries in New Jersey.
A defendant might attempt to leverage contributory negligence against you so that you settle out of court. Proper evidence and a strong case can give you the upper hand in these instances, allowing you to recover total compensation for your losses following an accident.
Call Our New Jersey Attorneys About Your Personal Injury Claim
You can call the Paterson, NJ personal injury lawyers at Legal Care at (732) 838-9769 to schedule a free case assessment today.