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Comparative Negligence- What Does it Have to do with NJ Car Accidents? (Part 2)

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Part 1 of this article discussed NJ’s doctrine of comparative negligence and how it affects an injured driver’s financial recovery after a car accident. Part 2 of the article will provide an example further explaining how comparative negligence works.

After a car accident, the injured driver may sue the driver who allegedly caused the accident. The injured driver (plaintiff) will file a complaint with the court. If the accident happened in Mt. Laurel, NJ, the complaint may be filed in Burlington County, the county where the accident happened.   If the at-fault driver lives in Cherry Hill, NJ and the accident happened in Mt. Laurel, NJ, the complaint can also be filed in Camden County. The plaintiff can choose to file the car accident lawsuit in the county where the accident happened or where the defendant lives.

The at-fault driver (defendant) must file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. In the answer, the defendant may allege that the plaintiff was also to blame for the car accident, i.e., the plaintiff contributed to the car accident.

For example, driver A is hit from behind by driver B while traveling on the road causing him to drive off the road and into a ditch in Mt. Laurel, NJ. Driver A is injured and files a complaint against driver B. In driver B’s answer, he states that Driver A was partially at fault because he was texting while driving. Driver B alleges that Driver A drifted into his lane of travel because he was texting. As a result, Driver B hit him from behind.

As discussed in part 1 of the article, even if driver A was partially at fault, he can still recover financially for his injuries and damages so long as his percentage of fault is no greater than driver B’s percentage of fault. However, the damages award is reduced by the percentage of driver A’s negligence.

If driver A is awarded $100,000 in damages and is also 40% at fault, the award is reduced by 40%. Driver A will receive $60,000 instead of $100,000.

Even is driver A is 50% liable, he can still recover subject to a reduction of 50%. Thus, the award or $100,000 will be reduced by 50%, leaving him with $50,000.

The only time driver A will not be able to recover is if his percentage of negligence is greater than driver B. Therefore, if he is 51% at fault, he will not be able to recover anything.

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