In a straightforward car accident, there’s an easy answer to that question. If one driver is speeding and causes a crash where the other driver wasn’t doing anything wrong, the speeder is liable for all the damages.

But what if one driver is speeding and the other is texting? What if one driver runs a stop sign, but the other driver is drunk?

In the real world, car accident scenarios tend to be more complicated than the hypotheticals you encounter on Q&A websites or in driver’s ed. Sometimes, multiple people’s negligence is to blame.

Even if you were partially at fault for a car accident, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t recover compensation for your damages. You may have a mountain of medical bills and other financial losses. If someone else’s carelessness was also a factor in the crash, you may still be entitled to recover for those losses.

Different states resolve these matters differently. New York follows a rule called comparative negligence.

In today’s article, we provide a brief overview of comparative negligence in NY and how it works.

Don’t Assume You Are Partially at Fault

At the outset, we want to caution you not to make assumptions about who is at fault. Remember: there is sometimes a difference between feeling like the accident was your fault and being legally at fault.

We all know that auto accidents aren’t supposed to happen (even though they do all the time). When collision strikes, it’s extremely rattling. Your emotions are jumbled.

“Something has gone wrong,” your mind tells you. “What if I was partially at fault for the car accident?” you ask yourself. Your mind starts racing, and soon enough, you’re brainstorming all the ways you might have messed up.

Don’t let your emotions or your embarrassment get the best of you. Always resist the temptation to admit fault at the scene of the crash. You might feel like it was your error, but upon further factual investigation and legal analysis, the question of who is legally at fault may turn out differently than you expect.

You don’t want to have made statements that could be used against you (and yes, the insurance companies usually will try to use anything you say against you.)

In fact, it’s even best to avoid saying something polite like, “Don’t worry; you didn’t do anything wrong. It was all my fault!” You might be trying to make the other person feel better, but you don’t want to end up assuming partial liability for an accident if you don’t deserve it.

If You Are Partially at Fault, Here’s How the Law Applies

Under the rule of comparative negligence in New York, accident victims can recover compensation for their damages in a car crash, even if they are partially at fault.

To determine how much money should be awarded, the court will compare the negligence of each party, assigning each person a percentage of fault.

The victim’s compensation is then reduced by that percentage.

An Example

Earlier, we described an example where one driver is speeding and the other is texting. Let’s add a few more facts, hypothetically speaking.

Let’s say the speeding driver went through an intersection and struck the texting driver head-on. Miraculously, the speeding driver was uninjured. But the texting driver suffered $100,000 in damages.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s also assume that the court decides the speeding driver was 80% at fault, but the texter is assigned 20% of the fault because he might have avoided the accident had he been paying attention.

In this case, the texter can still recover, despite being partially at fault for the car accident. However, his total damages ($100,000) will be reduced by his portion of fault (20%).

Ultimately, the texter is entitled to recover $80,000 from the speeder.

What if the Fault Is 50-50?

What if both parties are equally at fault? Actually, that scenario isn’t entirely uncommon.

New York is a “pure comparative negligence” state, which means there is no percentage of fault that will bar a victim from recovering.

If the victim is 50% at fault, his or her damages will be reduced by 50%.

In fact, even if the victim is 99% at fault, he or she can still recover 1% of their damages.

(Note: the rule is very different in some other states. Some jurisdictions hold that once someone’s fault hits 50%, they can’t recover at all. But that is not the rule for comparative negligence in New York. Accordingly, it’s important to make sure you are working with state-specific information when researching your claim. An experienced Kingston car accident lawyer can help.)

Free Case Review: Kingston Auto Accident Lawyers at O’Connor and Partners

At O’Connor and Partners, we fight hard to maximize compensation for the clients we represent.

Car accident claims tend to involve complex negotiations. The right attorney will fight for the smallest possible apportionment of fault in your case. Even if you were partially at fault for a car accident, you have rights, and you deserve a legal representative who work passionately to advance them.

We offer our personal injury services to individuals living all throughout the State of New York. If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you. Contact us online or call 845-303-8777 to talk with an experienced Kingston auto accident lawyer today. We will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.


by O'Connor & Partners, PLLC
Last updated on - Originally published on

Posted in: Car Accidents