New Jersey is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning that you may be able to sue for damages after a personal injury even if you were partially at fault. Your eligibility to receive damages depends upon the relative degree of negligence a court attributes to each party, and whether or not that negligence constitutes proximate cause.
Understanding state interpretations of negligence and proximate cause may help determine whether your claim is worthwhile. When in doubt, a lawyer can help you assess your options.
Personal injury claims essentially depend upon the way a court assigns negligence contributing to an injury. Negligence in layman’s terms is the failure to exercise the degree of care society expects of you. The law typically measures this according to how a reasonably prudent person would behave in your shoes.
Judges see negligence as a sliding scale between ordinary negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and willful misconduct. But these are not the same as a percentage of fault. Many personal injury cases are due to ordinary negligence. Courts treat more severe forms of negligence as particularly egregious.
Negligence does not always result in injury. People can act carelessly or recklessly without negative consequences. Proximate cause is a legal doctrine meaning that the negligence you or the other party demonstrated directly contributed to the injury in question.
When evaluating a personal injury claim, a court will assess negligence and proximate cause as a percentage. For example, if your negligence contributed 40% to the injury, and the other party contributed 60%, then you would be eligible for all assessed damages less 40%. Modified comparative negligence dictates that in New Jersey, you must be less than 50% at fault for the incident to collect damages.