What is the Comparative Negligence Act?
New Jersey’s comparative negligence act is applied in cases where one party is seeking damages from another. The act allows the court to assign a degree of fault for the incident to each party to determine the amount of compensation, if any, the plaintiff receives as a result of injury. This is known as shared fault — when the court decides no one party is solely at fault, but that each party played a role in the incident.
N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.1 establishes the plaintiff cannot recover damages for negligence resulting in injury or death if it is determined that he or she has a greater degree of responsibility than the defendant. Furthermore, the recovery is diminished by the percentage of responsibility the court decides the plaintiff bears for the incident.
Examples of Shared Fault
The concept is often applied in cases of car accidents. For example, if the victim of a car accident is suing for damages, the court might decide the plaintiff is 20 percent at fault because he or she was texting while driving, and the accident likely could have been avoided if the victim was not distracted. On the other hand, if someone is rear-ended because the driver was texting, the plaintiff likely would not share any responsibility.
If a pedestrian was hit by a car and is suing for damages, the defendant’s legal team may argue the pedestrian was jaywalking and the driver did not have a chance to slow down and avoid the accident.
Other examples of negligence could include someone who rides with a drunk driver or in a car they know does not have working headlights or has a flat tire.
Each of these claims would be made in an effort to reduce the amount of damages owed by the defendant or even have the claim dismissed because the court rules the plaintiff was more at fault.
Pure Comparative Negligence vs. Modified Comparative Negligence
New Jersey follows a modified comparative negligence law (also referred to as proportionate responsibility), which contrasts with pure comparative negligence in determining potential shared fault.
In modified comparative negligence, the plaintiff cannot recover if they are deemed more at fault than the defendant.
Pure comparative negligence means the plaintiff can still recover if they are more at fault than the defendant, but their compensation will still be reduced by the percentage of their fault.
In the case of someone who is bitten by someone else’s dog at a house party, the court may examine the person’s conduct in interacting with the dog in determining negligence. If the court decides the plaintiff was being irresponsible in playing with the dog in a way they should have known could lead the dog to bite, modified and pure comparative negligence laws would result in different amounts of potential compensation.
In modified comparative negligence, if the plaintiff is 60 percent at fault, they would receive nothing, but in pure comparative negligence, they would receive 40 percent of the damages.
The Importance of an Experienced Legal Team in New Jersey Shared Fault Cases
If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury or negligence case, it is important to have a strong legal team at your defense in order to prevent your compensation from being significantly reduced — or eliminated — because of New Jersey contributory negligence laws.
The defendant’s legal team will seek to establish your shared responsibility in the incident. Whether it involved a car accident, an injury on your property, or any number of incidents resulting in injury, you need a legal team who will ensure the responsible party is held accountable and you receive just compensation for your injuries.
Contact the team at Rosenberg | Perry & Associates and allow us to share how we can build a strong defense for your case and fight for your compensation.