In many personal injury cases, it is clear who is at fault. For example, a vehicle runs a red light and collides with your vehicle in the middle of an intersection.
But what happens when negligence isn’t quite so clear cut.
Let’s say you are walking through a grocery store texting with your wife about what to pick up for dinner when you slip and fall hitting your head on the floor. When you regain your composure you notice there is broken glass on the floor and a slippery puddle of liquid. You also notice that just a few feet away a clerk is stocking shelves . Surely, he should have known about the dangerous surface. In this situation, it is likely the business would be considered to have been negligent for not cleaning up the dangerous surface and/or posting warning signs indicating that the floor was hazardous.
The complicating factor in this case would be the fact that while you were walking you were also looking down at your cell phone and not paying attention. A insurance company could determine that, while the store owner was at fault for not cleaning up the spill, you were also partially at fault for walking while distracted. They may determine that, given the broken glass on the floor, a reasonable person would have notice the hazard and walked around it.
How much was the store at fault for the accident and how much did you contribute to the fall? That is what is meant by comparative negligence.
Comparative Negligence in New Jersey
Under New Jersey’s Comparative Negligence Act, if you are partially at fault for an accident the damages paid to you will be reduced by the percent that you were at fault.
For example, in the case above, if it is determined that you were 20% at fault and your damages are $1000.00 then you would only receive $800.00 from the store’s insurance company. If it is determined that you were more than 50% at fault you would not be able to recovery any damages.
Every case is different. and should be evaluated on its own merits. If you have been injured as a result of the negligence of another it is important that you consult with an experience personal injury attorney. The attorney will review the facts surrounding your case and provide an analysis of the likely outcome and any legal issues.