Understanding Pure Comparative Fault in New York Personal Injury Cases

New York law uses a doctrine known as comparative fault, also called comparative negligence. The goal of this rule is to make damages awards in personal injury cases as fair as possible for all parties involved. This rule applies in all personal injury and wrongful death cases.

During a personal injury trial, a jury must make a variety of decisions. First, they must determine whether you have suffered an injury. Next, they will have to determine whether the defendant, multiple defendants or even additional circumstances contributed to your injury. They will also consider whether your actions played a role in the accident that caused you to be hurt.

Using these determinations, the jury will decide what proportion of the accident was your fault and what proportion was the fault of the other parties involved. Fault will be apportioned as percentages. These numbers will be important later for determining the amount of damages you can recover.

Next, using the evidence presented by medical experts and your personal injury attorney, the jury will determine the proper amount of damages for your injuries. This number will include monetary (pecuniary) damages, such as medical expenses and your lost wages. It will also include damages for harms that don’t directly translate into financial costs (non-pecuniary damages), such as your pain and suffering or the loss of use of a body part.

In the last step, a court will combine the two numbers to determine what you can recover. This means that the court will take the total damages award allowed by the jury and subtract the percentage of the award that is proportionate to the percentage of the accident which was determined to be your fault. You will be able to collect the rest from the defendant.

In practice, this means that you can recover 90% of the damages the jury awarded to you if they determined you were 10% at fault. If you were 50% at fault, you would be entitled to the other 50% of damages. Some states use a “modified” version of comparative fault, which says that being 50% or more responsible for an accident means you cannot recover anything. This is not the case in New York. If you are found to be 99% responsible for your injuries, you can still potentially recover the other 1% of compensation from a defendant because New York uses “pure” comparative fault.

It is important to understand that you may still be able to recover compensation in court or through a settlement, even if an accident was partially or mostly your fault. The law firm of Pusatier Sherman Abbott & Sugarman, LLP in Buffalo, NY diligently represents victims of all types of personal injury claims. To learn whether you may be able to recover damages for your injury, contact us for a free consultation. Call us at 716-262-9600 or contact us online to plan your free meeting today.

By Stephen Pusatier | Published September 24, 2015 | Posted in Personal Injury | Tagged accidents, comparative fault, comparative negligence