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What does “contributory negligence” mean?

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2020 | Car Accidents

When you file a personal injury claim for compensation, you will need to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident and ensuing harm. The defendant may then try to claim that you too acted negligently, at which point the deciding parties will have to determine to what degree your negligence contributed to the accident.

The law refers to this concept as “contributory negligence.” FindLaw explains the contributory negligence standard more in-depth and how New Jersey courts use it in personal injury cases.

Legal definition of negligence

Per the legal definition, negligence exists when one party fails to act as a reasonable person should. This means that if the defendant’s actions fell below the set standard of care for an ordinary person, the law may consider him or her negligent. Likewise, if your actions before the accident also fell below the reasonable standard of care, the deciding parties may resolve that you, too, acted negligently. When neither party acted as a reasonable person should have, the concept of contributory negligence will come into play.

The contributory negligence standard

As a contributory negligence state, New Jersey requires that the plaintiff in a personal injury case proves that the other party’s negligence contributed to the accident more than his or her own’s. In other words, the plaintiff must prove that he or she was less responsible for the accident than the defendant. A dual-fault accident case might arise if, say, the plaintiff was speeding but the defendant turned out in front of him regardless of this fact. In this situation, the jury will have to decide whose actions contributed most to the accident.

If the defendant in your case successfully proves that your actions also contributed to the crash, you will only be able to recover damages if your percentage of fault is less than his or hers. If it is, the courts will diminish your award by the percentage of fault attributed to you.