When going to court in a personal injury case it is important to have a good understanding of what you can expect to face and what it will mean for your case. Whether you’re the defendant or the plaintiff, one of the more common arguments in these types of cases is going to be that the plaintiff was also at fault for the injury. This is done due to the comparative fault rule, which has been in place since 1975 in New York.
Simply put, this rule says that in cases where both parties (the defendant and the plaintiff) acted negligently in some way, the court is responsible for determining how much fault each party is guilty. The court will then take this information into account when determining what, if any, damages are to be awarded.
New York is one of 13 states that currently have a comparative fault rule on the books for personal injury cases. (Learn about all our personal injury services here.) While assessing negligence in a case makes sense, it can also make the cases much more complicated and potentially time consuming.
The easiest way to understand the comparative fault rule is to think about potential cases that may be heard and how the rule would apply. A common type of personal injury case involves an accident between a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle on the road. If the passenger vehicle comes to a stop and is rear-ended by the semi, the driver of the passenger vehicle may want to sue the truck driver, the truck driver’s company, or the insurance company.
While in court, the defendant will attempt to show that while the truck driver did indeed hit the other vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle was also partially at fault. The defendant may make the claim that the plaintiff’s vehicle’s brake lights were not functioning, so the driver of the truck could not tell that they were stopping until it was too late.
If it can be proven that this is the case, the judge may decide that the plaintiff was 25% at fault, and the driver of the semi-truck was 75% at fault. When determining what damages to award to the plaintiff, the judge will take this into consideration and reduce the amount awarded by 25%. While this is a fairly simple example, it helps illustrate how important the comparative fault rule is and how significant of an impact it can have on the outcome of a case.
Whether you’re looking to sue someone, or you’re being sued, in a personal injury case, it is important that you work with an experienced personal injury attorney who is very familiar with the comparative fault rule. Reach out to the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, L.L.P. to schedule a consultation and see how we can help you through this situation.