APPORTIONMENT OF FAULT IN NEW JERSEY PERSONAL INJURY CASES

Determining legal responsibility, or "liability" for an accident, often concerns if someone was careless or "negligent." Before you can claim that the individual or company causing an accident must pay for injuries, you must determine who was legally at fault. 

Legal Liability

Most accidents occur due to carelessness. Generally, legal liability is determined by comparison of the carelessness (or negligence) of the parties involved. Simply speaking, if one person involved in an accident was less careful than another, the former must pay for at least a portion of damages suffered by the more careful person. The following considerations are also important:

  • When an injured person was where (s)he was not supposed to be, or where (s)he should have expected the type of activity causing the accident, the person causing the accident might actually be relieved of liability, as they had no "duty" to be careful toward the injured person.
  • When an injured person was also careless (or negligent), his/her compensation for injury may be reduced by the degree that such negligence was also responsible for the accident. This concept is called comparative negligence, and the rules about recovery when a plaintiff is also negligent, vary by state.
  • When a negligent person causes an accident while working for another, the employer may also be legally responsible for the accident, under a theory known as respondeat superior.
  • When an accident is caused on property that is dangerous because it is poorly built or maintained, the property owner is liable for being careless (negligent) in maintaining the property, regardless of whether (s)he created the dangerous condition.
  • When a defective product is the cause of an accident, both the manufacturer and seller thereof are liable even if the injured person doesn't know which one was careless in creating or allowing the defect, or exactly how the defect happened.

When Multiple Parties Are at Fault

When more than one person is responsible for an accident, the law in most states provides that any one of the careless parties is responsible for compensating the injured person in full. The responsible parties must then look to each other for reimbursement. This rule is significant when dealing with insured defendants and concerning whether an insurance company takes responsibility.

How a Plaintiff's Negligence Affects a Claim

Even if a plaintiff was careless (negligent) and partly caused an accident, in most states (s)he can still obtain some compensation from another also at fault and partially responsible for the accident. The other person's negligence would be compared with the plaintiff's to determine his/her share of liability. Accordingly, under the principle known as comparative negligence, the percentage of liability of the defendants determines the percentage of the resulting damages (s)he must pay. However, a plaintiff's recovery will depend on the state where the accident occurred, as different states place various restrictions depending upon the percentage of fault.

Call for a Free Consultation with a Morris County NJ Personal Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, and you would like to discuss legal liability in New Jersey, contact the Morris County law offices of Smith & Doran for a cost-free consultation. Our highly skilled personal injury attorneys can answer all of your questions and outline your available legal options.

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Morristown, NJ 07960

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