There is much that people do not know, much less consider, about vehicle collisions; if they have not been through one. The danger of such incidents to the health and well-being of the driver and others is obvious, of course. However, no matter how severe or innocuous the crash itself may be, there are also potential legal and financial ramifications. Especially if it is determined that you were in part responsible. Here is what you need to know about modified comparative negligence.
What is Modified Comparative Negligence?
Modified comparative negligence is the concept that accident victims who are found to be partly liable for accidents are only partly entitled to financial compensation. New Jersey Statutes 2A:15-5.2 states that the level of liability for the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) must be determined by calculating the “full value of the injured party’s damages” and figuring “the extent, in the form of a percentage, of each party’s negligence or fault.” Whatever percentage determined for the fault of the “injured party” must then be taken out of the total.
Let us use an example to explain this legal concept. Imagine that Driver A is at a four-way intersection. They have dutifully stopped at the stop sign, and then they make a left turn. However, before they can make it all the way across, they are T-boned by Driver B; leaving Driver A with $1000 in damages. The courts may determine that Driver B was at fault, being the one who directly hit Driver A, and may thus have to cover the damages.
However, if the drivers’ insurance companies find that any of Driver A’s actions may have contributed to the incident, then modified comparative negligence is considered. In our hypothetical scenario, the courts might discover that Driver B had sounded their horn at Driver A. And Driver A could not react to the honk because they had their music turned up too loud. A driver who cannot hear what is happening outside their field of vision is endangering other drivers. So Driver A may be found to be 30% at fault. Instead of receiving $1000 to cover their damages, they would only receive $700; and have to pay the rest out of their own pocket.
What Happens If I’m More Than 50% at Fault?
This determination may sound harsh as is, but there is one detail in this law that is significant for plaintiffs. NJ Statutes 2A:15-5.1 states that people can claim money for damages to themselves or their property “if such negligence was not greater than the negligence of the person … or combined negligence of the persons against whom recovery is sought”. In short, you cannot claim money from the defendants if you are found to have been more responsible for the accident than they were.
Continuing with the earlier example. If Driver A’s inability to hear Driver B honking at them is considered 50% at fault, Driver A could still claim money from Driver B’s insurance company. However, if Driver A had not even used their turn signal to show that they would be turning left; then this plus the loud music might push them to be, say, 70% responsible. That would mean that under New Jersey law, Driver A can no longer claim any money for their damages.
If you or a loved one have been in an accident and intend to file a claim against the other driver involved, contact the car accident personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of James C. Dezao, P.A. We are experienced and more than capable of providing you with the legal assistance you need. Reach out to us today at (973) 358-6134 and receive a free consultation.