Accidents, injury, and property loss are part of everyday life in New Jersey. When injuries occur the question of fault and negligence comes into question. Who is responsible for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering?
Here we discuss the concepts of contributory and comparative negligence and how they relate to injury claims.
An Overview of Negligence
Negligence is used in personal injury to describe behavior that creates an unreasonable risk to others. If your negligence results in harm to other persons then you may be legally responsible to compensate them. For a personal injury claim to be successful, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty to provide safety to an individual and that the defendant breached that duty of care.
Contributory negligence is used to describe conduct that creates an undue risk to yourself. The concept is used to demonstrate that an individual has a duty to act in a reasonable manner. When an individual does not act in a reasonable manner, and an injury occurs, then this individual could be held responsible (either fully or partially) even if others were involved in causing the accident.
For example, John strikes a car operated by Jill while driving on the highway. Jill sustains an injury and brings a legal claim against John. However, during the course of the claim, it's discovered that Jill was speeding when the accident occurred. John can claim contributory negligence against Jill and argue that Jill's own conduct - her speeding - contributed to the accident. Under certain circumstances, this could completely bar Jill from collecting damages or reduce her compensation in proportion to her percentage of responsibility for the accident.
Most states have comparative negligence approaches to lawsuits where the fault is apportioned when determining damages. New Jersey has adopted a "Modified" comparative negligence where a relative degree of fault among the parties involved determines damages recovered.
If an injured plaintiff's negligence is greater than the defendant's, the plaintiff may be barred from obtaining compensation. This is often referred to as a "50%" qualifier.
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If you've sustained an injury due to someone else's negligence, contact us for a free consultation. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are available to speak with you directly.