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Can I recover compensation for car accident injuries even if I was partially at fault?

Most New York City residents likely know that it’s possible to recover compensation related to injuries suffered in a car accident. Many, however, may not be aware of the actual laws related to fault and how determinations about fault can impact the amount of compensation an individual may be awarded.

When proving fault in a traffic accident, attempts must be made to determine the amount of fault that should be assigned to each driver with regard to their role in contributing to an accident. For example, the majority of U.S. States follow a modified comparative fault rule. In 12 states, an individual is banned from recovering damages if he or she is deemed to be 50 percent or more at fault. The majority of states abide by the 51 percent Bar Rule which dictates that an individual can sue to recover damages as long as he or she is 50 percent or less at fault. However, any compensation awarded is reduced by the percent of fault assigned to that individual.

The remaining states either follow Pure Contributory Negligence or Pure Comparative Fault rules. Today only four states abide by the terms of the aforementioned rule. Under Pure Contributory Negligence, an individual who is found to be even one percent at fault of contributing to an accident is barred from recovering compensation.

On the flip-side New York State is among the 13 states to follow the Pure Comparative Fault Rule. Under this rule, an individual is allowed to seek the recovery of compensation even if he or she is "99 percent at fault." However, the recovery of any damages is "reduced by the damaged party's degree of fault." 

The Pure Comparative Fault Rule is the most liberal of all of the comparative fault rules and is often considered to be a major advantage for New York residents who are involved in traffic accidents. For these reasons, anyone in New York City who is involved in a traffic accident that results in the accrual of repair and medical expenses is advised to consult with an attorney.

Source: Claims Journal, "Understanding Comparative Fault," Contributory Negligence and Joint & Several Liability," Gary Wickert, Sept. 5, 2013

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