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What is Comparative Negligence

Posted on 11/15/23

Sometimes, more than one person is at fault for causing an injury. However, when there is shared fault, the process of recovering compensation becomes more challenging.

In order to properly determine how much compensation a person receives after an injury, if they receive any compensation at all, many states have developed comparative negligence laws. In New York, we use something known as a “pure comparative negligence” law, along with thirteen other states.

What is Comparative Negligence?

The vast majority of states around the country use some sort of comparative negligence law to determine liability when there are multiple parties at fault for an injury. Comparative negligence laws are seen as the most fair way to apportion compensation, though the way that states handle comparative negligence laws does vary a bit.

For example, most states that use a comparative negligence law use what is known as a “modified comparative negligence” system. Usually, this means that individuals are not able to recover compensation if they are 50% or more responsible for causing their own injury, but they can recover compensation if they are less than 50% responsible. The total amount of compensation they receive will be reduced depending on their percentage of fault.

However, as mentioned above, New York and 13 other states use a “pure comparative negligence” system.

What is New York’s Pure Comparative Negligence

In New York, individuals can recover compensation regardless of how much fault they shared in causing the incident. Even a person who is 90% to blame for causing an accident can still recover compensation for the remaining percentage that was not their fault.

However, just like other modified comparative negligence states, the total amount of compensation a person receives will be reduced depending on their percentage of fault for the incident. For example, let us suppose that an individual sustains $10,000 in damages due to a slip and fall accident injury in a grocery store because they slipped on a wet floor caused by a leaky refrigerator. Let us assume that the case uncovers evidence that the store owners and operators knew about the leaky refrigerator but failed to take steps to fix it and did not properly warn guests of the wet floor.

However, let us also imagine in this scenario that a jury determines that the slip and fall injury victim was 30% responsible for the injury because they were distracted by their phone while walking through the store, as shown by video surveillance footage. In this theoretical scenario, the individual would receive $7,000 instead of the full $10,000, which accounts for the 30% of fault they shared for the incident.

This is only a theoretical scenario, and most injury claims are much more complicated than this. If you or somebody you care about has sustained an injury and there are allegations of shared fault, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. When you have a skilled legal advocate by your side, you have an individual with the resources needed to investigate the claim and help determine how the incident happened. An attorney will work to determine the liability of all parties involved in order to obtain the most fair compensation on behalf of their client.