Imagine a New Jersey driver crosses through an intersection and hits a pedestrian, resulting in injuries that cause the victim to spend two weeks in the hospital and be out of work for one month. The victim sues the driver for $200,000, focusing on compensation for hospital bills, missed income from work, and pain and suffering.
Based on that information, the jury could decide the driver is at fault and he or she owes the victim the full amount.
But what if the victim was actually texting on their phone at that time they began crossing the street and was unaware of the oncoming car? Or what if the victim ignored a “Do Not Cross” signal?
What is Comparative Negligence?
These additional factors highlight New Jersey comparative negligence laws, which seek to determine compensation in negligence and personal injury claims based on assigning a share of fault to each party involved. This is why comparative negligence is also referred to as shared fault law.
Comparative negligence laws in New Jersey have the potential to reduce or eliminate the compensation levels of the injured party based on their degree of fault. For example, if the jury in the above scenarios determines the victim is 20 percent at fault for texting while walking across the street — and had they not been texting, they would have easily seen the car and avoided the accident — they would not receive the full $200,000 but instead would be awarded $160,000.
The laws do not only apply to motor vehicle accidents. For example, businesses are obligated to keep their property clear of snow and ice to a reasonable degree. If a person is walking through a parking lot and notices an area still covered in ice, and instead of navigating around it, decides to walk right over the ice and injures themselves, the jury would determine the level of blame the injured party should be assigned.
Modified vs. Pure Comparative Negligence
States with comparative negligence laws choose to follow modified or pure comparative negligence.
In modified comparative negligence, the victim cannot receive compensation if they are more at fault in the accident than the defendant. That means the court can rule that even though the victim was injured by some degree of negligence by the other party, they are more at fault than the defendant, and the defendant should not be forced to pay damages. New Jersey follows modified comparative negligence laws.
For states with pure comparative negligence, the victim can recover compensation even if they are more at fault than the defendant. Their compensation would still be reduced by their degree of fault, so if the victim is deemed 70 percent at fault in a $100,000 case, they would receive $30,000.
Why Shared Fault Cases Require an Experienced Legal Team
Just because you have been injured in a case of negligence and believe you are due compensation does not mean you do not require the expertise of a personal injury lawyer.
Shared fault cases have the potential to greatly reduce the amount of compensation you receive because the defendant’s team will seek to convince the court you had a high degree of fault in the case — enough that you could be prevented from receiving any damages.