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Contributory Negligence in New York- What You Need to Know

By Dansker & Aspromonte

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By Dansker & AspromonteApril 25, 2022

Every accident claim is unique. Sometimes there is more than one party responsible for an accident.  In some instances, the injured party can be held to be partially responsible for their own injuries. If you have ever seen kids fighting over who is more to blame for something that went wrong, you know why we have negligence rules. Different states have different comparative negligence rules about this, and each type drastically affects how personal injury lawyers proceed with cases.

In New York, we use a pure comparative negligence standard. The two other major types are pure contributory negligence and modified comparative negligence. What you need to know about contributory negligence in New York could affect your personal injury case. 

What Is Negligence?

There is a standard of care that reasonable people take in different situations. A reasonable driver keeps their eyes on the road. A reasonable property owner maintains their property for hazards. When these standards are breached, the law calls this negligence.

Negligence can be passive or active. You don’t have to have someone “do something” to you to cause your injuries. Their lack of care can also harm, like when a property owner doesn’t put up a warning sign about a dangerous dog.

The civil justice system allows you to get financial compensation when you’re injured because of someone else’s negligence. It is a wide field, which is why we have so many practice areas. Not all cases are 100% the fault of someone else. That is where contributory negligence laws kick in to decide who gets paid and how much.

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New York’s Pure Comparative Negligence Standard

New York, along with 12 other states, uses a pure comparative negligence standard for their contributory negligence laws. In this standard, you can sue as long as the other party has even a little fault for the accident.

The amount of compensation you can get will change depending on your percentage of fault. If you’re 1% at fault, your compensation will lower by 1%. If you’re 99% at fault, it’ll go down by 99%. However, you are not barred from suing unless you’re 100% at fault.

For this reason, it is important to carefully and thoroughly investigate your claim and build a strong claim that reduces as much as possible any claim that you were in any way responsible for your own injuries. Reducing or eliminating your percentage of fault, if any, depends upon skillful legal representation.   

Other Standards of Negligence to Know

On the opposite side of the contributory negligence spectrum is the pure contributory negligence standard. This used to be the major standard across the country, since it is derived from common law. But now, only five states and Washington D.C. use it. The closest one to New York is Maryland.

Under this standard, if you assume any amount of negligence in your accident, you cannot sue. Insurance companies love this because it pulls out a major tool for negotiation. Most other states recognize how unfair this standard is and use a different system.

All the other states use versions of a modified comparative fault system. It’s a merger of the systems. Under these systems, if you’re the party less at-fault, you can sue. This could be set at less than 50% or less than 49%, depending on the state. North Dakota has a unique system where you can sue if you have “slight” fault for an accident.

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Actions To Take If You Are Involved In An Accident

The actions you take immediately after an accident can greatly reduce any claim that you were partially or wholly at fault for an accident.  Follow this simple advice to build a strong claim:

  • Call the police to report the incident
  • Request an ambulance 
  • Obtains witness names
  • Take photographs if possible
  • Do not give any statements to representatives of at fault parties
  • Obtain medical attention
  • Follow all medical instructions
  • Do not post on social media about your accident or injuries
  • Speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible

The lawyers at Dansker & Aspromonte LLP Associates have been fighting for the rights of injury victims since 1988.  Call us today for a free consultation.  If we are able to accept your case, you will not be asked to pay any money upfront for our services.  

We only earn a legal fee when you recover compensation.  Don’t delay as there are deadlines that limit your rights. If you fail to file your claim before the expiration of the applicable deadline, you could be barred from recovering what you deserve.

Call or text (212) 540-2981 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form

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