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Car accidents and contributory negligence

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2018 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Nobody is perfect, even when it comes to driving. Most people have neglected to use a turn signal or have sped at one time or another. Fortunately, most of the time, these minor infractions turn out to be nothing more that small violations of the law. Sometimes, though, these driving errors can contribute to an accident. When this happens, motorists may find themselves wondering if their mistakes will prevent them from pursuing compensation from another motorist who caused the crash in question.

Under New York law, contributory negligence is not a bar to compensatory recovery in a legal action. This means that if one is hurt in a wreck, even if they were negligent, then one may be able to recover money from another negligent driver to contributed to the accident. However, if one’s fault is determined to be more than 50 percent of the cause of the wreck, then they will not be able to recover compensation.

So, what happens when one is apportioned fault? The court will simply take any award and reduce it by the percentage of fault. And, if one is found to be 25 percent responsible for the wreck, but another driver was 75 percent at fault, then one would recover, say, $75,000 of a $100,000 award.

This means that those who have been injured in a car accident not only need to be prepared to make legal arguments in support of imposing liability on the person who caused their harm, but also they need to be ready to defend themselves from arguments of contributory negligence. One’s ability to do so can have a direct effect on one’s ability to recover compensation, as well as the amount of compensation that may be recoverable if a lawsuit is won. This can be tricky position to be in, depending on the facts, which is why it is often beneficial to have a skilled legal ally on one’s side before moving forward with a personal injury claim.