Sometimes, it’s really easy to determine who is at fault for a car wreck – and sometimes it isn’t. If you’ve been hurt in a crash, the lingering doubt that you may have somehow contributed to your own injuries might stop you from pursuing a claim, but it probably shouldn’t.
Simply put, you probably aren’t in the best position to understand exactly how your actions (or inactions) affect the viability of your case. Learning more about how negligence is viewed in motor vehicle accidents and other civil claims can help you better evaluate your legal options.
Modified comparative fault is the name of the game in New Jersey
New Jersey follows a modified comparative fault system in personal injury claims. This means that a plaintiff can only recover damages if they are less than 50% at fault for their own losses. If the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, they cannot recover any damages at all as a matter of law. In addition, anything the plaintiff is due in damages will be reduced by whatever percentage of fault they’re ultimately assigned.
Consider this scenario: You’re driving down your own street and you see a car speeding in your direction. The driver is clearly not watching their speed and they’re distracted by their cell phone. They hit you, and you’re injured. You sustain about $50,000 worth of injuries.
But, you weren’t wearing your seat belt at the time of the wreck. You were so close to your house, you had just snapped it off. As a result, the court might say you’re 20% at fault for your own injuries since you would have presumably fared better if your seatbelt had been in use. If $50,000 in damages is awarded, you’d receive $40,000 instead ($50,000 minus that 20%).
When you seek experienced legal guidance, one of the first things your potential advocate will do is ask detailed questions about how the wreck happened and what you remember. They will likely want to know things like whether you were wearing your seatbelt and what you were doing immediately before the wreck (to see if you were possibly distracted by your phone, GPS or radio, for example). Once they have the answers, they can make an educated guess about whether your negligence outweighs the other driver’s negligence and help you pursue your claim.