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What Is Comparative Negligence in New York Car Accidents?

Posted on 04/28/22

Many car accidents are not only caused by the negligence of one party but are a combination of mistakes made by multiple parties. One driver might be speeding, for example, while another isn’t yielding the right-of-way. If both parties involved in a car accident share fault for the collision, New York’s comparative negligence law will come into play.

What Is the Comparative Negligence Law?

Comparative negligence means that the victim of a car accident – the person who is filing a claim and seeking financial compensation for medical expenses and property damage – bears some extent of fault or culpability for the car accident. The comparative negligence law is the legal doctrine that will apply in New York if there is a shared fault for a crash. It is found in New York Civil Practice Law & Rules Chapter 8, Section 1411

If both the plaintiff and defendant in a New York car accident case are found to be at fault for the collision, the plaintiff can still recover damages. State law says that when comparative negligence is established in a personal injury case, the fault attributed to the claimant will not bar recovery. This is different from a contributory negligence state that bars a plaintiff from recovery for even 1 percent of the fault. However, comparative negligence in New York will diminish a claimant’s recovery in proportion to the amount of fault attributed to him or her.

How Might Comparative Negligence Affect Your Car Accident Settlement in New York?

If an investigation of your car accident finds that you share fault for the crash with the defendant, this could reduce the amount of financial compensation that you are eligible to recover from the defendant’s insurance company. New York’s comparative negligence law works by penalizing the plaintiff by an amount equivalent to his or her percentage of fault. 

For example, after a T-bone collision, if you receive 10 percent of the fault for speeding but the other driver is 90 percent at fault for making an unsafe left-hand turn in front of you, your 10 percent of fault would reduce your financial recovery by a matching amount. In this example, a $25,000 settlement would be reduced by 10 percent ($2,500) to $22,500 due to your comparative negligence.

What Does “Pure” Comparative Negligence Mean?

States that use a comparative negligence doctrine can establish a “pure” or “modified” version of the law. New York is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that regardless of the amount of fault attributed to a claimant, he or she can still recover a percentage of a financial award. This is true even if the plaintiff is 99 percent at fault for a car accident. The other 1 percent can still be recovered.

Modified comparative negligence states, on the other hand, place a cap on the amount of fault that can be attributed to a claimant before he or she is ineligible for financial compensation. This cap is typically between 49 and 51 percent. If the claimant is found to be more at fault than the cap allows, he or she will be unable to recover any compensation from the other party.

How Is Liability Determined in a New York Car Accident Case?

Since New York is a no-fault car insurance state, you may not need to determine liability for your car accident to recover financial compensation from your own car insurance company. If your injuries are serious, however, you may need to prove that the other driver caused your wreck to file a claim with his or her insurance provider. This may take assistance from a car accident lawyer in Buffalo.

If you believe that you contributed to the car accident, it is even more important to hire a Buffalo personal injury attorney to represent you. Your attorney can help you combat the comparative negligence defense and maximize your financial recovery. While you focus on recovering from your injuries, your lawyer can investigate the car accident, collect evidence of fault and build a claim against the other driver on your behalf. 

For more information about New York’s comparative negligence law in a car accident case, contact Towey Law, PLLC to request a free consultation.