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Comparative Liability in Car Accidents

car accident

Car accidents are rarely black and white. We often speak of “which driver” is responsible for the crash, as if more than two people cannot cause a wreck. In reality, both drivers often make mistakes that can lead to a collision, so neither party is completely innocent when they go into court to ask for compensation.

A car accident trial discussed in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is a good illustration of this point. At issue was who was responsible when a rental truck struck a vehicle, causing it to flip over in a ditch.

The Facts of the Case

The case, Davis v. Salick, centered on the events that transpired one evening in July 2014. Plaintiff Davis was driving near Cohancy Street when he encountered the truck being driven by the defendant, Salick. According to Davis, Salick sideswiped his vehicle, causing it to flip over and land in a ditch.

Each driver disagreed about what exactly transpired that night. Testimony focused on whether the vehicles improperly crossed a lane or whether one of the drivers was in a turning lane but travelling straight. An accident reconstruction specialist also testified as to what might have happened.

A key detail before trial was the plaintiff’s claim that he had taken pictures of the truck immediately after the accident and that those photos would bolster his case. However, Davis never introduced photographs, which perhaps undermined his argument.

Assigning Liability

At one point in time, New York law would prohibit an injured person from bringing a lawsuit if their own negligence contributed to an accident. This rule was very unfair and could prevent someone from bringing a lawsuit even if they were only 1% responsible for the crash.

New York changed that law and adopted comparative negligence. Under this system, an injured motorist can still bring a lawsuit so long as someone else was at least 1% responsible for the crash. This means your own actions could be 99% responsible but you can still (in theory) bring a suit.

In Davis v. Salick, the jury ultimately decided to assign liability this way: 40% responsibility rested with the plaintiff and 60% rested with the defendant. The jury used that  to decide how much compensation should be awarded.

Calculating Damages

Although an injured motorist can bring a lawsuit, the amount of compensation they receive will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

For example, imagine that the jury calculates Mr. Davis’ injuries as being worth $50,000. Since he is 40% responsible for the accident, he can only receive $30,000 in total compensation. Had he not been responsible at all, he could receive the full amount of his injuries in the form of money damages.

Brooklyn Car Accident Lawyers

Auto collisions happen very fast, and it is sometimes difficult to parse out who is responsible. At the Law Offices of David J. Hernandez & Associates in Brooklyn, we have decades of experience handling even the most factually complicated cases.

For more information about what we can do for you, please schedule a free consultation with one of our Brooklyn auto accident lawyers by calling 718-407-4123.


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