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What if You Were Partially at Fault?

The responsibility for accidents and the resulting injuries often does not fall on a single person, or even a single organization. It is common for numerous parties to have contributed to the occurrence, and sometimes those parties can include the injured person. Many people assume that they cannot recover compensation if their own actions influenced the accident that brought about their injuries. While this was true at one time, it is no longer the case in New York or throughout the majority of other states. Although being partially at fault is certainly an important factor for plaintiffs, it does not necessarily bar financial recovery.

When the conduct of an injured person was partially responsible for bringing about that injury, it is called contributory negligence and it is a factor in a large percentage of cases. Fortunately, New York’s Civil Practice Law adopts one of the more plaintiff-friendly approaches to contributory negligence:

  • Classically throughout the United States and to this day in a small minority of jurisdictions, any amount of contributory negligence would prevent a plaintiff from recovering any compensation.
  • Now in many states, a plaintiff can recover so long as he or she is less than 50 percent at fault, provided that any recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to that plaintiff meaning if a person was 49 percent at fault for the accident, she or he could recover up to 51 percent of the potential damages.
  • In New York State, a plaintiff can recover regardless of the percentage of fault assigned to him or her so long as there is at least one other defendant who is also at fault. Therefore, even if a plaintiff is 80 percent at fault for his own injuries, he can still recover 20 percent of the monetary value of the loss he suffered.

Contributory negligence can still significantly reduce the value of a plaintiff’s claim so it is important to be ready to confront this defense when defendants and their insurers invariably raise it. Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia’s personal injury attorneys know these tactics and are prepared to help clients throughout Long Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County overcome them.

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