Comparative Negligence in New York

Under New York’s comparative negligence law, as long as you’re not found 100% at fault, you can still collect damages from a car accident.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
New York
is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that when you’re
involved in an accident
, you collect or pay damages based on the percentage you’re found to be at fault. As long as you’re found less than 100% at fault, you can still collect damages from an accident.
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a fancy way of saying that when two people are in an accident, they collect damages based on how much they’re found to be at fault.
For example, if you’re in a car accident with another vehicle, and you’re found to be 30% at fault, you’ll only be responsible for paying 30% of the damages. The other driver will be responsible for paying the remaining 70%. 
In the case of
insurance claims
, insurance companies determine the percentage of damages they will pay, while a judge or jury makes that decision for personal injury cases. 

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

There are three types of comparative negligence: pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence. Each state’s law follows one of these principles. 
  • Pure comparative negligence: An injured party collects damages according to their percentage of fault. 
  • Partial/modified comparative negligence: An injured party may only collect their percentage of damages if they’re found to be less than 50 or 51% at fault (depending on the state).
  • Contributory negligence: An injured party may only collect damages if they’re found to be 100% not at fault.
New York is one of only 12 pure comparative negligence states
Key Takeaway As long as you’re not found 100% at fault, you can expect to collect at least some damages if you’re in an accident in New York.

What is New York’s comparative negligence law? 

New York’s pure comparative negligence law means that you’re entitled to collect damages after an accident as long as you’re not found to be 100% at fault. If the other party is found even 1% responsible, you’re entitled to that 1% in damages. 

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties? 

Regardless of how many people are involved in an accident, the fault will be divided between them all. For example, If four drivers are involved in an accident, the fault will be divided between them
You’re not required to file insurance claims with all involved parties’ providers, but keep in mind that you’ll only be awarded damages in proportion to the amount of fault each driver is found responsible for. 
That means if you’re not at fault, but the other drivers are each found to be 25% at fault, filing a claim with only one or two of their companies would mean forfeiting your right to those additional damages.

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

Insurance companies determine fault in car accidents based on the evidence collected at the scene and police reports. This means the more information you can gather, the better your case may be.
When you’re at the scene of an accident, be sure to check first that everyone is okay (including yourself) and call 911 if anyone is injured. Then, document as much evidence as you can:
  • Take pictures of the scene and all visible damage
  • Talk to any witnesses and record their names and contact information
  • Record the makes and models of all cars involved
  • Note the time of day and the weather conditions
  • If you call the police, be sure to record the police report number and the responding officer(s)’ badge number(s)
The more evidence you collect, the better equipped the insurance companies will be to determine who is most at fault.
Key Takeaway Collect as much evidence as possible at the scene of your accident to ensure fault is assigned fairly and accurately.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

In comparative negligence states like New York, you can file a claim with another driver’s insurance provider even if they were not 100% at fault for the accident. You and the other driver will be awarded damages based on the proportion to which you’re each found responsible for the crash.

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at fault in an accident or not
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Yes. Insurance companies use a number of demographics, your driving history (including your percentage of fault in accidents), and many other factors to calculate your unique insurance premium. If you’re found at fault for an accident, you could see your premiums go up by 20% or more!
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