If you are motorcyclist who may be partially at fault for a motorcycle accident in New York, consider yourself fortunate. New York is 1 of 13 states that has adopted what is known as the true comparative negligence system, which awards plaintiffs damages based on their relative fault. While this is generally good news for motorcycle plaintiffs, the complexity in determining the precise level of fault can be quite involved, which is why an experienced Queens motorcycle accident attorney can offer an invaluable service in comparative negligence cases.
Degrees of Fault: It’s All Relative
If you are partially at fault in a motorcycle accident, one of the most important factors in determining how much you can recover is where the accident occurred. The difference can be substantial because what you may recover can range from 0 to 99% if you are just 1 percent to blame for the accident.
For motorcycle accident victims in Maryland and Virginia, which follow the common law contributory negligence rule, a victim who is partially at fault will not be able to recover even one cent if the motorcyclist has contributed to the accident in any way. This exacting standard is an extension of the “clean hands doctrine,” which requires the plaintiff to be completely free of wrongdoing before pointing the finger at another or extending a hand to the court to grant relief.
As a sense of fairness developed in personal injury law, states began to replace the unforgiving contributory negligence doctrine with more equitable systems, including comparative negligence and no-fault recovery.
Today, the following systems are in place:
- True Comparative Negligence. This standard has been adopted in 13 states, including New York, and is designed to allocate fault as precisely and fairly as possible. The rule is easy to remember because the determination of fault and damages go hand in hand. If you are 20% at fault, your award will be reduced by 20%.
- Modified Comparative Negligence. This is the system that has been adopted in a majority of states. It is similar to the true comparative negligence system because fault is divided among the parties involved in the accident. However, the modified comparative negligence system cuts off the plaintiff’s recovery if the degree of fault rises to a certain threshold. Twelve states have set the cutoff level at 50%, while 21 states have established a cutoff of 51%. As a consequence, a plaintiff is barred from recovering even one cent if the plaintiff’s level of fault reaches these percentages.
- No-Fault Recovery. Under this system, adopted in certain situations in 12 states, including New York, a party’s ability to sue is curtailed unless the injuries are severe or the medical expenses reach a dollar threshold. However, this unique system applies only to physical injuries and lost wages. Property damage still falls under the traditional fault rules. Under the no-fault system, plaintiffs seek reimbursement for their losses up to $50,000 directly through their insurance companies. However, New York decided to exempt motorcyclists and their passengers from the no-fault law because motorcycle accidents often involve serious injuries that lead to enormous medical expenses.
Fault vs. Wrongdoing
To be able to calculate how your partial fault will affect your recovery, you must first understand that there is sometimes a difference between wrongful conduct and legal fault.
Not everything that a motorist or motorcyclist does that is illegal will be assigned a degree of fault. For example, the fact that a motorcyclist drove with an expired license has nothing to do with the fact that the other motorist was speeding, lost control of the vehicle and caused an accident. In this example, although the motorcyclist broke the law, the motorcyclist’s recovery for damages would not be diminished because driving with an expired license had nothing to do with the accident.
On the other hand, there are instances in which a motorcyclist’s wrongdoing will be counted in determining partial fault. For example, all motorists are expected to perform evasive maneuvers to avoid an accident or minimize its impact. If the motorcyclist did not take evasive measures, the recovery may be reduced partially, even though the motorcyclist had the right of way.
As you can see from these examples, there are many factors that may determine the partial degree of fault attributed in a motorcycle accident. An experienced Queens motorcycle accident attorney can help you sort out what factors will be important when blame does not solely rest in the hands of one driver.
Contact a Queens Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you have concerns because you may have been partially at fault in a motorcycle accident, contact one of our Queens motorcycle accident attorneys at Gacovino, Lake & Associates. We have experience in handling accident cases with varying degrees of fault. Call 1-800-246-4878 for your free consultation today to discuss the specific circumstances surrounding your case.