Proving Fault in New Jersey Personal Injury Accidents

Proving Fault in New Jersey Personal Injury Accidents
proving blame

If you have been injured in an accident in New Jersey caused by the negligence of another person or entity, you may possess a right to pursue monetary damages. However, in order to recover money for your injuries, you will need to prove the other party was at fault. In legal terms, this is called proving liability. Proving liability in a personal injury case will vary depending upon the type of accident you have experienced. One common personal injury accident claim is a slip and fall.


Slip/Trip and Fall Accidents and Premises Liability

When you are injured in a fall on someone else’s property, the ensuing claim comes under premises liability law. Premises liability law operates on the principle that property owners, landlords and other proprietors are responsible for maintaining their properties in a safe and secure manner and, if a person who is lawfully on the premises is injured, the proprietor may be liable for damages. To establish liability in these cases, you need to prove the following:

  1. The defendant owed you a duty of care.
  2. The defendant breached that duty.
  3. The defendant's breach was a proximate cause of the accident.
  4. You sustained damages.

In the case of a slip and fall, if the accident occurred while you were legally on the property of another, the first prong of the test is often the easiest to establish. Some factors that bear on this analysis are what type of property it is, the reason you were on the property and your personal status as an invitee, licensee or trespasser.

You must then demonstrate that the premises owner breached the duty of care. This may turn on whether the defendant knew or should have known of a dangerous condition on the premises, or failed to adequately maintain the premises such that a reasonable inspection would have uncovered the dangerous condition that caused injury.

Under the third prong of the test, you must demonstrate that the the premises owner's breach of the duty of care proximately caused the injury. If the premises owner breaches the duty of care, but does not cause the accident, then there can be no liability. For example, if the premises owner breaches a duty of care owed to plaintiff, but plaintiff assumes a known risk on the premises and is injured as a result, then the plaintiff may be unable to prove that it was the premises owner's breach of the duty of care that proximately caused the injuries.

Finally, it must be proven that the plaintiff sustained damages as a result of the accident. This often requires medical proofs and documentation, such as reports, x-rays, test results and expert testimony. Damages in slip and fall cases can range from soft tissue injuries to catastrophic damages, and even death.

Comparative Fault

New Jersey has adopted a modified comparative negligence rule. This means that under certain circumstances the plaintiff's percentage share of negligence may be assessed by a jury, and any monetary award reduced by the percentage of plaintiff's fault. Importantly, in NJ, plaintiffs who are found 51% or more responsible for the accident are not entitled to any recovery.

The law surrounding negligence claims is complex. Contact the Reinartz Law Firm to learn more. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have a long history of representing accident victims in New Jersey and would be pleased to speak with you about a possible claim.