When you’ve been hurt because of someone else’s wrongful or careless act, one of your first thoughts is to seek compensation for lost wages or income, medical expenses and other damages. But what if the accident was partially your fault? Can you still recover a financial award to pay for the losses you’ve suffered?
For hundreds of years, the law of personal injury applied a concept known as the “contributory negligence” doctrine. Under the legal theory of contributory negligence, if you were negligent in any way and to any degree, and that negligence contributed to your injury, you could not recover damages from someone else for your losses. Because the doctrine seemed extremely harsh, and because defense attorneys would, often successfully, argue that a miniscule amount of negligence on the part of the injured party should absolve an egregiously negligent party from any liability, a new standard—comparative negligence—has become the law of the land in all 50 states.
Not surprisingly, though, there is no consensus on how comparative negligence should be applied. In the majority of states, the principle applied is what is known as “modified comparative negligence.” In those states, an injured party can only recover damages if his or her degree of liability falls below a statutorily determined level. Most states hold that level to be 51% (21 states) and all others adopting modified comparative negligence (another 12 states) find the level to be 50%.
New York, though, is one of only 13 states that apply what is known as “pure comparative negligence.” Under that legal theory, an injured party may still recover something, even if he or she is 99% liable. For example, if the total losses were $100,000, but the injured party was 90% responsible, he or she will still be entitled to $10,000 in damages.
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At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.