• Determining Liability in a Comparative Negligence Case

    comparative negligenceWhen a person has suffered an injury as a result of another person or entity’s actions, they are entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for the damages that they have suffered, but not every case is straightforward in terms of who is at fault. At first glance, a supermarket may be considered negligent if it failed to keep its floors dry after a snowstorm and a customer slipped and fell as a result. But the store’s level of negligence may change if the store put up a sign warning that the floors were wet and a customer decided to run on them in high heels. The legal term that refers to the amount of fault that can be attributed to the injured party in a personal injury lawsuit is “comparative negligence,” and it can have a very big impact on the amount of compensation that the plaintiff is likely to receive.

    Comparative negligence cases ask two basic questions: Would a reasonable person have acted in the same way that the injured party did, and did the defendant act in a way that fulfilled their basic duty of care. If the answer to both questions is “no,” then it needs to be determined to what extent the injuries were the fault of the plaintiff and to what extent the injuries were the fault of the defendant. Different states address this problem in varying ways, but in the state of New Jersey the standard is what is known as “modified” comparative fault, which means that if the injured party’s responsibility for their own injury is greater than that of the defendants, then they cannot recover any damage from them, even if the defendant’s actions fell short of what would normally be expected.

    If the person who was injured is determined to be less than 50 percent responsible for the incident then they are able to recover damages, but those damages are reduced by the percentage of their assessed responsibility, and if there are multiple parties that are named as defendants and any of them are assessed a level of comparative negligence greater than 60 percent, the plaintiff can recover the full damages from them.

    The rules about comparative negligence can be tricky, and if you are an injured party who faces the possibility of being blamed for your own injury you need an attorney who will be able to counter that assertion aggressively and professionally. To discuss your case, contact our office today to set up a free consultation.

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