In many accidents, fault cannot be squarely placed upon one person. One driver may have been speeding while the other one may have pulled out without looking, and a collision occurred. Under the old common law, the concept of contributory negligence did not allow either driver to recover any personal injury compensation. Today, only a handful of states follow this harsh and often inequitable rule.
Similar to the laws of the vast majority of states, New Jersey’s Comparative Negligence Act abrogates this old rule. Our state now allows those injured partially through their own fault to recover compensation as long as their percentage of fault is not higher than the defendants’. However, the judge must reduce the total to reflect the percentage assigned to the plaintiff:
- If a plaintiff suffers $100,000 of damages in an accident that was entirely the defendant’s fault, the plaintiff can recover $100,000.
- If a jury determines that the plaintiff was 40 percent at fault for the accident, the plaintiff can still recover $60,000.
- If a jury determines that the plaintiff was 51 percent at fault for the accident, the plaintiff can recover nothing from the defendant, regardless of the severity of the injuries.
As a result, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries even if your own negligence played a significant role. However, defense attorneys diligently search for ways to shift responsibility to the injured plaintiff. Even if they cannot push the plaintiff’s responsibility above 50 percent, they can significantly reduce their clients’ liability exposure. Our accident attorneys are familiar with these tactics. We can identify the facts the defense may use to try to shift responsibility and prepare a compelling response.