Can You Sue If You’re Partially at Fault for a Personal Injury?

It’s not uncommon for injured parties to have played a role in the accident in which they were hurt. Pedestrians often get struck while jaywalking, for example, and shoppers often slip and fall despite “Wet Floor” signs because they’re not paying attention to their surroundings.

Thankfully, shouldering a portion of fault for your injuries doesn’t automatically bar you from recovering compensation for your damages—in most states. Unless you intend to take legal action in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, or Virginia, you may be entitled to damages even if you were partially liable for the accident; however, some states bar recovery if the plaintiff’s liability reaches a certain threshold—usually 50 percent or 51 percent. These are called “modified comparative fault” states.

Fortunately, under New York’s pure comparative fault system, a plaintiff is not barred from recovery even if they were more at fault for the accident than the defendant. In fact, even if you were 99 percent at fault, you could still pursue compensation for the 1 percent of your damages for which the defendant was liable.

When a personal injury plaintiff is partially liable for their own damages, their financial recovery is reduced by their own percentage of fault. For example, if you were hurt in a slip and fall and you are deemed 25 percent liable, you can seek compensation for only 75 percent of the associated losses from the defendant. If you end up incurring $50,000 in damages, that means you could recover up to $37,500.

When Might Punitive Damages Be Available in a Personal Injury Case?

The pure comparative fault rule applies to compensatory damages, which essentially aim to make the plaintiff whole again. Such damages are composed of the economic and non-economic damages that the plaintiff incurred. Examples include:

  • Medical bills;
  • Home care;
  • Child care;
  • Domestic help;
  • Lost wages;
  • Lost earning capacity;
  • Property damage;
  • Alternative transportation;
  • Home and vehicle modifications;
  • Mental anguish;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Physical impairment and disfigurement; and
  • Loss of enjoyment in life.

In some cases, plaintiffs are entitled to more than just the standard compensatory damages. If the defendant’s conduct constituted malice; wanton recklessness; willful negligence; fraud; a high degree of immorality; or a conscious disregard for the plaintiff’s health, rights, or safety, the case may warrant a punitive award. Instead of reimbursing the plaintiff for his or her losses, punitive damages aim to punish the defendant and to deter such conduct in the future. If you can provide clear and convincing evidence that your injuries were caused by more than ordinary negligence, you may be entitled to a punitive award.

Discuss Your Case with a Personal Injury Attorney in Long Island

If you were seriously hurt because another party failed to act with reasonable care, contact WeitzPascale. We will conduct a thorough investigation into your accident, gather evidence, and help you pursue the highest payout possible. Call 516-280-4716 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Long Island.