Suffering an accidental injury does not automatically hold victims blameless. In many cases, injury victims share a degree of negligence with one or more other parties, for example in the following circumstances:
A driver stops suddenly behind a halted vehicle because a cell phone distraction prevented him or her from noticing the car earlier. Technically, a driver who cannot stop in time may be liable for the accident but a distracted driver can share some degree of negligence for this type of accident.
A doctor fails to diagnose a patient condition accurately when the patient hides vital information that could lead to a more accurate diagnosis. Even if the patient suffers serious injury due to mistreatment, he or she may share liability — or even be identified as the at-fault party.
An individual buys a new power tool to conduct home repairs but sustains injuries after failing to observe safety precautions. If the printed instructions are unclear or if safety warning labels are not prominent on the equipment, the manufacturer may be at fault. Otherwise, the victim can potentially share liability for the accident.
Even when injury victims share negligence for accidents, they can still recover damages as long as their own negligence does not exceed the negligence of the other parties involved in the incident. However, according to New Jersey contributory negligence law, the damages are reduced based on the victim’s degree of negligence. In other words, if an investigation reveals you shared 10 percent of negligence in an accident that results in $1,000 in damages, you can pursue up to $900 from other liable parties. On the other hand, if your liability is assessed at 50 percent or more, you cannot pursue damages from other parties.
For relatively minor injuries or other damages, accident victims can generally rely on insurance companies to determine liability issues.