Whenever a party is being charged with causing an accident or injury through negligent or wrongful conduct, a common defense raised by defendants and insurance companies is that the injured plaintiff’s own negligence was a contributing factor to the accident or injury. If the jury becomes convinced this is the case, it can dramatically affect the plaintiff’s ability to recover compensation for his or her injuries.
Contributory Negligence versus Comparative Negligence
Traditionally, states followed the doctrine of contributory negligence, which held that any negligence at all on the part of the plaintiff would prohibit the plaintiff from recovering a penny from the defendant. Only five states still follow this rule. The others have adopted some form of comparative negligence, in which case a plaintiff who was partially to blame can still recover from a negligent defendant, although the recovery is reduced so that it is proportional to the defendant’s share of the negligence, as assigned by the jury.
New York Comparative Negligence Law
In some states, a plaintiff who is partially at fault can recover as long as he or she is not more negligent than the defendant, i.e. 50% or less. In other states, the plaintiff can only recover if he or she is less negligent than the defendant, i.e. 49% or less. New York, however, is one of about 13 states which follows a pure comparative negligence rule. In New York, an injured plaintiff can recover from a negligent defendant regardless of the amount of fault attributed to the plaintiff. In other words, a plaintiff who is said to be 90% to blame for causing an accident can still recover for damages caused by a defendant who was 10% at fault, although the recovery will be reduced by 90%.
Common Comparative Negligence Claims
Comparative negligence can be raised by the defense in just about any personal injury case, such as the following:
- Automobile Accidents – Injured vehicle occupant was not wearing seat belt
- Truck Accidents – Car driver “hung out” in the truck driver’s blind spot
- Motorcycle Accidents – Rider was not wearing helmet; rider was riding recklessly
- Bicycle Accidents – Rider did not signal intentions; rider was not wearing reflective clothing
- Pedestrian Accidents – Pedestrian crossed against the light or in the middle of the street; plaintiff did not exercise caution before entering intersection
- Bus Accidents – Plaintiff did not wait for bus to come to a stop before standing up, or before leaving the curb to board the bus; plaintiff did use available handrails or other supports
- Medical Malpractice – Patient failed to fully or accurately disclose medical history before the procedure; patient failed to follow doctor’s orders during treatment or following a procedure
- Premises Liability – Plaintiff did not watch where he or she was going; did not heed warnings about wet floor or other danger; did not use handrails or other available safety features
- Products Liability – Consumer failed to heed warnings or used the product for something other than its intended purpose. Even if it was not the intended purpose, if the consumer used the product for a reasonably foreseeable purpose, the manufacturer may still be liable if the product was unsafe for that use.
Experienced New York Personal Injury Lawyer
Successfully pursuing a personal injury case requires the plaintiff’s lawyer to prove the defendant’s negligence while also defending against claims that the plaintiff was also negligent. New York City attorney Leandros Vrionedes understands how to prepare and present a personal injury case which persuades the jury of the correct interpretation of the facts. If you have been injured in an accident involving another’s negligence, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation regarding the liability of the responsible party.