What Is Contributory Negligence and How Does It Affect Buffalo Car Accident Cases?

New York law accepts the possibility for accident victims to have contributed to their own injuries and related damages. It is called contributory negligence. A Buffalo motor vehicle accident lawyer can tell you more about it.

All states have negligence laws in force. In some of them, the plaintiff can only seek compensation for their losses if they were less at fault than the defendant (comparative negligence). In others, New York included, they can do so even when they are 90% at fault for their own injuries (contributory negligence).

Of course, the fact that the law allows it does not mean anyone involved in an accident should claim damages. Before seeking compensation for their losses, accident victims should consider consulting a Buffalo car accident attorney.

The latter will explain the law to them in the context of their case and evaluate their claim. They will determine how much money their client can recover and what their own obligations would be. If the numbers justify filing a compensation claim, they will take over all formalities.

The best way to understand how contributory negligence affects car accident cases is to review the law. Applying it to a concrete example helps as well, so we will do that too, in the following lines.

NY Contributory Negligence Law through the Eyes of a Buffalo Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer

 Contributory negligence is subject to New York Civil Practice Law and Rules Article 14-A. Section 1411 establishes that contributory negligence does not bar recovery. However, the amount that accident victims can recover will be diminished according to their share of fault.

What does this mean? Let’s take the example of a car accident between John and Lacey, both driving their vehicle downtown Buffalo. Their vehicles collide, and John appears to be at fault, since he rear-ended Lacey’s car. Let’s say Lacey decides and her case meets the requirements to sue John for damages.

Her claim is evaluated at $100,000. As a defense, John claims Lacey’s brake lights weren’t working. This would make Lacey partly at fault for the accident. Let’s say John manages to prove their point and the court establishes that Lacey was 20% at fault for the accident.

Under NY law, Lacey can still recover 20% of her $100,000 losses, namely $80,000. Of course, she will also be responsible for 20% of John’s losses. Let’s say John’s losses reach $500,000. That would make Lacey responsible for $100,000. She would be liable for more than she can recover, so her claim would not be worth pursuing.

Of course, these are all relative, dependent on what the parties can prove, as stipulated by Section 1412. According to it, the responsibility of proving contributory negligence belongs to the party invoking it as a defense.

In the above example, Lacey only becomes liable for 20% of the damages if John manages to prove that her brake lights were not working. If John fails, Lacey can recover all her losses and not share liability for any of John’s losses.

This goes to prove once again that accident victims should consult a lawyer before seeking compensation for their losses. They should have a clear assessment not only of their own losses but also of the ones of the other party. It is also important to clearly assess their contributory negligence and the other party’s chances of proving it.

Since New York is a no-fault state, car accident victims usually seek compensation from their own insurer. They can only sue the party at fault directly when certain conditions are met. Even when going to court is an option, the implications of doing so should not be neglected.

There are numerous procedures to follow, formalities to comply with, and expenses to consider. Moreover, a favorable court sentence does not guarantee recovery. If the party at fault is bankrupted, disabled, impossible to locate and make accountable, etc., their victim may not recover anything.

Experienced Buffalo car accident lawyers are aware of all these and take them into account when advising their clients. They only act when they know it is worth it, and they always explain their actions and recommendations to their clients.

Get a Free Claim Evaluation from an Experienced Buffalo Car Accident Attorney Now!

Would you like to know how much your claim is worth or how your contributory negligence would impact its value? Make an appointment with a Buffalo motor vehicle accident lawyer and your will receive the answers you need. The first consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose!

Subject Related Articles