If we experienced personal injury on account of someone’s negligence, we’d feel several emotions – shock, distress, and outrage, to name a few. While the feelings may subside, the effects of the injury can linger. It’s natural we’d want the person responsible to be held accountable, which is why most states define ‘negligence’ specifically in personal injury law.
How does New Jersey define negligence?
In New Jersey, negligence is the failure to exercise an expected degree of caution – a “standard of care” – in order to minimize harm to risk to another person. To determine the standard of care, a court will use the notion of a ‘reasonable person’ to establish a baseline. The court will determine whether a reasonable person, in the situation, would have a duty to behave with a standard of care to the plaintiff. This includes whether the reasonable person had known of the plaintiff’s presence at the time. Once this baseline is established, the court will consider a defendant’s conduct based on what they knew at the time. This is how a reasonable person’s standard of care separates acts of negligence from common accidents.
For example, if a person were driving at night, with their headlights on, and they struck a jaywalking person, it would be more difficult to accuse the driver of negligence. However, if the driver were severely nearsighted, and driving without corrective lenses, then the pedestrian would have a strong case to accuse them of negligence. Still, in this case, there is a varying degree of responsibility between both parties, which brings us to contributory negligence.
What is contributory negligence?
Contributory negligence is the degree to which each party is responsible for an accident. New Jersey, like other states that consider contributory negligence, will use this notion when determining who can ask for damages from whom, and how much in damages should be paid. In order to ask for damages, the plaintiff must be less responsible for the accident than the defendant. In the example with the nearsighted driver, a court or a jury may find the driver was 90% responsible. However, the jaywalking pedestrian was 10% responsible for his own injuries. Thus if the damages were calculated at $10,000, the driver would be required to pay $9,000, and would be unable to collect for damages to his car stemming from this incident.
If you or someone you know has suffered personal injury on account of another person’s negligence, we advise you to contact an attorney immediately. In New Jersey, you have two years to file a suit from the date the incident occurred. Contact attorney David P. Schroth. David hass over twenty years’ experience practicing law in New Jersey, including personal injury cases, and he can fight for you too.