Understanding New York’s Comparative Negligence Law in Car Accident Cases

Car Accident Lawyer in Queens NY

In New York, barely a day goes by without at least one car accident, and it’s easy to see why, given the constant traffic flow on our streets. From 2012 to 2014, 1,098 New Yorkers lost their lives in traffic accidents, and in September 2023, there were more than 8,100 collisions in New York City alone.

If you’ve had a car accident, you must understand a legal term called “comparative negligence.” Below, a car accident lawyer in Queens explains comparative negligence and how it may apply to your case to help you make more informed legal decisions moving forward.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that comes into play if both parties in an accident share some of the blame. Investigators determine how much fault an injured party shares and reduce their award by that amount.

Different states have varying comparative negligence rules. Many states bar parties from recovery if they are more than 50% or 51% at fault. South Dakota is an interesting outlier as it’s the only state to recognize the slight/gross contributory negligence rule. This rule replaces fault percentages with “slight” and “gross” contributions to an accident.

New York’s comparative negligence rule is slightly more relaxed than in some other states. We’ll discuss this rule and its implications in more detail below.

New York’s Comparative Negligence Law

New York is one of 12 states that follows a “pure comparative negligence” rule. Under the law, a party can recover damages no matter how much fault they bear for an accident. That means even if you’re 99% at fault, you could still recover 1% of your damages.

This is good news for you if investigators determine you’re more than 50% at fault. You wouldn’t be able to collect compensation in some states, but that’s not the case in New York.

Examples of Comparative Negligence

Examples of Comparative Negligence

It’s common for both parties of an accident to share part of the blame. Other drivers, bicyclists, and even pedestrians can also be partially at fault. Let’s go over a few examples to illustrate.

  • It’s the holidays, so Joe decides to let loose and have a few too many drinks at his family’s Christmas party. Afterward, he hits the road without realizing how drunk he is. As Joe approaches an intersection, another driver runs a stop sign. The other driver is partly at fault for running the stop sign, but Joe would have avoided them if he hadn’t been drinking.
  • Maria checks her text messages while driving to work. When she glances at her phone, a pedestrian darts out into the street without warning. Both Maria and the pedestrian are partially at fault for the collision.
  • Casey is late for a meeting, so he drives 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. He’s going too fast to notice that construction workers left some equipment in the middle of the road. If Casey hadn’t been speeding, he could have avoided the equipment. However, the construction company is partly at fault for not putting away the equipment.

How Do Investigators Determine the Degree of Fault?

If you file a lawsuit and it goes to court, the jury will determine how much fault each party shares and reduce your award accordingly.

Most car accident cases settle out of court. An adjuster will assign a percentage of fault to you and calculate your damages before making a settlement offer.

Don’t expect insurance adjusters to act impartially. They want to pay you as little as possible, so they may say you’re more at fault for the accident than you are. Personal injury attorneys are well aware of the insurance adjuster’s tactics and will work hard to prove your percentage of fault.

Contact Our Law Firm If You’ve Had a Car Accident

Accidents happen daily in New York, and in 2021, nearly 1,160 people lost their lives in fatal crashes on our roads. Even if you survive a car accident, you could be left with severe injuries or even permanent disabilities that cost you your job.

If you’d like to seek justice from the driver who hit you, Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates, PC, is here to help. We can explain liability in a ride-sharing accident, as well as how comparative negligence applies to your case.

For a free case review, call (888) ASK-ELLIOT or (718) 205-1010.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to report a car accident in New York?

In New York, you have ten days to report your accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles if the accident:

  • Caused more than $1,000 in property damage
  • Injured or killed someone

The New York DMV has a few other requirements:

  • If the accident only caused property damage, you must exchange license, insurance, and registration information with the other driver.
  • If the accident injured or killed someone, you must notify police right away.
  • If you damage an unoccupied vehicle, you must find the owner or call the police.

What should you do if you have a New York car accident?

After a New York car accident, stop your vehicle and move it out of the road, then move other victims out of the road if you’re able. You should also call the police if anyone was hurt or killed. Take pictures of the accident scene if you can, as your lawyer will want to review them later.

It’s also smart to see a doctor even if you think you’re unhurt. If you don’t do this, the insurance company may lower your settlement.

Can you sue for a car accident in New York?

It’s possible to sue for a New York car accident if you meet one of two conditions:

  • You sustained more than $50,000 of combined medical and lost wages damages
  • You sustained a serious injury, such as a fracture, disfigurement, loss of a fetus, or permanent disability

If either condition applies, call a lawyer to learn how comparative negligence may affect your case with a consultation.