Some accidents are 100% the other person’s fault. Some aren’t. Whether or not one person was to blame for the accident or both parties were negligent will have a substantial impact on the compensation received in a personal injury claim in New York.
Two Scenarios of a Car Crash
Imagine that you were seriously injured in a collision with another car. In a personal injury claim, the person whose negligence caused the accident is responsible for paying for the damage resulting from the accident.
In Scenario A, a drunk driver was speeding and crashed into your car while you were alert and obeying every driving law. The driver who had been drinking and speeding was determined to be 100% at fault for the accident.
In Scenario B, the other driver was drunk, but you were speeding when the collision occurred. How would shared blame affect a personal injury claim in New York? Every nyc personal injury lawyer has seen many instances in which both parties were partly at fault for an accident.
New York Shared Fault Laws
In New York, the compensation an accident victim receives can be affected if both parties share some degree of liability. Under New York’s “pure comparative negligence” rule, the amount of compensation the injured party is entitled to will be reduced by an amount equal to their percentage of fault.
Here’s an example of how this rule could work using the two scenarios above.
In Scenario A, the injured driver was entitled to $100,000. Because the other party was 100% at fault, the injured driver received full compensation or $100,000.
In Scenario B, the injured driver was speeding. It was determined the drunk driver was 80% at fault and the injured driver was 20% at fault for the accident. The $100,000 compensation was reduced by 20% or $20,000. The injured driver received $80,000 instead of $100,000.
The 51% Rule or Comparative Negligence
In Scenario B, the rule of comparative negligence applies. If you were held to be 51% or more at fault for the accident, you would collect nothing at all.
Who Determines Fault?
As you can see, determining the percentage of fault is critical. The victim must be less than 51% at fault for the accident in order to receive any compensation in a personal injury claim. If the case cannot be settled and goes to court, the judge or jury will decide the percentage of fault (if any) of the victim.
Most cases settle before going to trial. Even if you were not at fault in any way, don’t expect an insurance adjuster to reach the same conclusion. Keep in mind that the insurance adjuster’s paycheck comes from the insurance company. They are primarily interested in settling claims quickly and for as little as possible.
Negotiating With the Insurance Company
Don’t be surprised if the insurance adjuster says you were 20% or 30% responsible for the accident. If you agree you were partly at fault, you’ve just reduced your compensation by that percentage. One of the most critical jobs of nyc personal injury attorneys is negotiating with the insurance company on behalf of the client. The goal is to have the client receive 100% of the compensation he or she is entitled to.
Every accident is unique. There’s no magic formula for determining fault in a particular accident. Fault is ultimately whatever the court decides or the insurance company agrees to following negotiations.
An experienced nyc personal injury attorney will be able to estimate fair fault percentages for your accident. Your lawyer will advocate on your behalf for the lowest percentage of fault or for zero fault. For simple fender-benders, New York’s no-fault insurance rules apply, but when you are seriously injured, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to defend your rights.