Contributory Fault

Causation is an important element in a personal injury case, such as one based on a car accident or slip and fall. You must prove the other party caused your injury before they can be held legally liable for your damages. 

In many cases, the victim is not at fault for the cause of their injury. But what happens in cases where the victim is partially to blame for causing their injuries? A contributory fault may reduce the amount the victim receives for their non-economic and economic damages

What Is Contributory Fault?

What Is Contributory Fault?

Contributory fault is a method of assigning damages in a personal injury case. All states have some type of contributory fault law that addresses the situation of multiple parties being at fault for an accident or personal injury. These laws generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Contributory negligence 
  • Pure comparative negligence  
  • Modified comparative negligence 

Each standard addresses a victim being partially to blame for causing their injuries. However, they differ on how much the victim can receive for damages in these situations. Some states impose a bar on the level of fault a victim may have for an accident and still recover damages from the other party. 

Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence 

Contributory negligence is the harshest of all methods for apportioning damages in a personal injury case. Only four states and the District of Columbia use this standard. 

Under contributory negligence, the victim cannot receive any money for damages if they contributed to the cause of their injury. Therefore, suppose you were 1% at fault for a slip and fall accident. You could not recover any compensation for damages even though the other party was 99% at fault.

Almost every other state has moved to a comparative negligence standard. Under comparative negligence, a party’s level of fault determines their liability for damages. If the other party is 100% at fault for your injury, they could be liable for all your damages.

However, if you are partially to blame for the cause of your injuries, you are responsible for a portion of the damages. For instance, suppose a jury determines you are 20% to blame for causing a car accident. If so, your compensation for damages would be reduced by 20 percent. 

Some states use a pure comparative negligence standard. A victim could be 99% to blame for causing their injuries and still recover 1% of their damages from the other party. Other states have adopted a modified comparative negligence standard that bars recovery if the victim is 50 or 51% to blame for their injuries. 

What Is New Jersey’s Contributory Fault Law?

New Jersey’s contributory fault law can be found in N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.1. The state follows a modified comparative negligence standard with a 51% bar to recovery. 

According to the law, contributory fault does not bar recovery of damages in a wrongful death or personal injury case. However, the victim’s negligence cannot be greater than the negligence of the other party or parties in the case. 

Therefore, you could recover compensation for your damages if your fault is less than 51 percent. However, the amount you recover is reduced by your percentage of fault. 

Let’s assume that a jury determines your damages for a personal injury lawsuit is $500,000. However, the jurors also determined you were 25% to blame for causing your injury. 

Your damages would be reduced by 25% or $125,000. Instead of receiving $500,000 for your case, you would receive $375,000.

What Should I Do if I Am Being Blamed for Causing an Accident in Freehold, New Jersey?

Contributory fault can significantly impact the amount you receive for a personal injury claim. Therefore, you should take steps to protect your right to receive fair compensation for damages. Things you can do to help your case include:

  • Report the accident or injury immediately to the appropriate authorities/parties
  • Never admit liability or accept blame for causing an accident
  • Seek prompt medical attention for your injuries
  • Take photographs of the accident scene and make a video of the entire area
  • Note the names and contact numbers of eyewitnesses
  • Do not agree to provide a written or recorded statement for the insurance company
  • Talk with a Freehold personal injury lawyer before you speak to an insurance adjuster about your claim

Insurance companies understand contributory fault laws. They use these laws to their advantage. In some cases, they unjustly claim that a victim contributed to the cause of their injury.

Don’t help the insurance company undervalue your claim. Allow a personal injury lawyer to handle all communications with the insurance company to avoid making an innocent comment that could be misinterpreted as admitting fault.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Freehold Personal Injury Lawyers

Don’t allow the insurance adjuster to convince you that your case is worth less because of contributory fault. Contact an experienced attorney at Noonan & McMahon, LLC for a free case evaluation with an experienced Freehold personal injury attorney. You deserve to be compensated fairly for the pain, suffering, and financial losses caused by another party. Give us a call at (732) 303 7857.