Not all car accidents are clear-cut when it comes to determining fault. In fact, some multi-vehicle accidents are so complicated that it’s hard to figure out if you’re even in a position to pursue a personal injury lawsuit and, if you are, who can sue.
Matters can get complex after you take legal formal action, too, as the defense is going to try to shift the blame back onto you to trigger New Jersey’s comparative negligence law.
What is comparative negligence?
Pursuant to New Jersey law, you can’t recover compensation through a personal injury lawsuit unless you were 50% or less at fault. And even then, your recovery will be reduced by the amount of fault that’s allocated to you.
Therefore, if you’re awarded $100,000 in your case but are found to be 45% at fault, then you’ll only actually receive $55,000 of that judgment. Given that your claim can be significantly reduced or even barred by a comparative negligence showing, you need to know how to defend yourself in your personal injury case.
How can you combat comparative negligence in your personal injury case?
Preparation is key. So, before heading into your personal injury case, you should thoroughly analyze the facts of your crash so that you know where you’re vulnerable to attack. Once you’ve done that, then you can start developing strategies to fight back against comparative negligence arguments. This might include:
- Securing expert testimony: You and the defendant are going to have contradictory accounts of how the accident occurred. To buttress your position, you might want to secure an expert who can help provide scientific reasoning as to why the defendant was at fault or at least more at fault for the wreck. An accident reconstruction expert might be able to help you here, as they’ll generate a final report that you can then use as evidence at your trial.
- Diminishing the credibility of the defense’s witnesses: Ultimately, the decider of fact, whether the judge or jury, will have to determine which witnesses are credible and thus believable. You can help sway their opinion if you can discredit the defense’s witnesses. There are several ways to do this, including pointing out prior inconsistent statements, showing a bias or motivation to testify against you, and even highlighting a witness’s history of untruthfulness.
- Putting your statements in context: The defense is going to rely on any statements that you made after the accident to try to show that you admitted fault. That’s why you have to be careful with what you say in the immediate aftermath of a crash. But, if you made statements that you expect will then be used against you, you’ll need to find a way to contextualize those statements to minimize their impact on your case. Your testimony will be key here, but so will the testimony of other witnesses who were present at the time the statements were made.
Don’t lose out on the compensation you deserve in your personal injury case
You need to get as much as you can out of your personal injury lawsuit. After all, the financial resources you recoup are going to set the stage for your recovery and your short and long-term financial stability.
Therefore, you’ll want to do everything you can to protect the viability of your claim. While this includes aggressively pursuing liability, it also means being cognizant of the implications of comparative negligence.
If you’d like help in taking a holistic approach to your personal injury case, then you’ll benefit from educating yourself on this area of the law and the types of arguments that you might be up against.