How Comparative Negligence Affects Your Construction Accident Claim in New Jersey

Construction sites can be inherently hazardous environments. From heavy machinery to elevated work platforms, numerous risks can result in severe injuries. If you’ve been injured on a construction site in New Jersey, it’s crucial to understand how the principle of comparative negligence could impact your claim. Here at The Law Offices of Richard A. Stoloff, we have the expertise to guide you through the intricacies of New Jersey’s legal framework.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence, also referred to as “modified comparative fault,” is a legal concept that apportions blame in an accident based on each party’s degree of fault. Instead of having a binary outcome where one party is entirely at fault, comparative negligence recognizes that multiple parties, including the injured party, could share responsibility.

New Jersey’s Modified Comparative Negligence System

New Jersey follows the modified comparative negligence system. This means:

  • The injured party can recover damages even if they are partially at fault.
  • However, if they are found to be more than 50% at fault, they cannot recover any compensation.

The damages awarded will be reduced by the percentage of the injured party’s fault. For example, if you’re deemed to be 20% at fault and have $100,000 in damages, you’ll receive $80,000 after the 20% ($20,000) is subtracted.

How Does This Affect Your Construction Accident Claim?

Understanding the concept of comparative negligence is crucial for anyone involved in a construction accident claim in New Jersey. The system’s nuances can significantly influence the claim’s outcome. Here’s an in-depth look at how comparative negligence might impact a construction accident claim:

Claim Reduction:

  • One of the most direct effects of the comparative negligence principle is the potential reduction in compensation. If the injured party is found partially at fault for the accident, their compensation will be reduced by the percentage of their fault.
  • As previously illustrated, the principle can significantly reduce the amount of compensation you receive. Recognizing and countering claims of your negligence is crucial.

Potential Claim Denial:

  • In New Jersey’s modified comparative negligence system, if the injured party is more than 50% at fault, they will not be eligible for any compensation. This distinction is critical, as determining the exact degree of fault can mean the difference between receiving compensation and walking away empty-handed.

Insurance Company Tactics:

  • Insurance companies are in the business of minimizing payouts. Aware of the comparative negligence rules, they might attempt to attribute a higher degree of blame to the injured party, thus reducing their liability.
  • This tactic can manifest in several ways: questioning the injured party’s actions during the accident, pointing out any lack of safety gear, or even highlighting potential distractions. It’s essential to be prepared for such tactics and have a counter-argument, ideally backed by evidence.

Shared Liability Among Multiple Parties:

  • Construction sites often involve multiple contractors, subcontractors, equipment providers, and other entities. If an accident occurs due to combined negligence of multiple parties, the comparative negligence principle will assign a degree of fault to each party.
  • This can complicate the claims process, as each entity might have its insurance provider, leading to a web of negotiations and discussions.

Evidence and Documentation Importance:

  • Given the potential for reduced compensation based on attributed fault, maintaining robust evidence becomes paramount. Everything from photographs, witness statements, safety protocol documents, equipment maintenance logs, and training records can play a role in establishing the negligence of each involved party.

Legal Strategy:

  • With comparative negligence in play, your legal strategy might differ. Instead of solely focusing on proving the other party’s negligence, there’s also a need to defend against claims of your negligence. This dual approach can influence everything from evidence gathering to witness interviews.

Settlement Negotiations:

  • Comparative negligence can play a significant role during settlement discussions. Both parties, knowing that a jury might assign a certain percentage of blame, might be more inclined to reach a negotiated settlement rather than risk an uncertain jury verdict.

Factors That Influence Comparative Negligence in Construction Accidents

Several factors can influence the degree of fault assigned in a construction accident:

  • Safety Protocols: Were there adequate safety measures in place? Were they followed?
  • Training: Were all workers adequately trained for their tasks and potential risks?
  • Equipment Maintenance: Was all machinery and equipment properly maintained and in safe working condition?
  • Personal Protective Equipment: Were workers provided with and using the necessary protective gear?
  • Worker Actions: Were the injured party’s actions reasonable under the circumstances, or were they reckless?

Protecting Your Claim

Protecting a construction accident claim in New Jersey is crucial for obtaining the compensation you rightfully deserve. Given the state’s comparative negligence system and the intricate nature of construction sites, it’s imperative to build a strong case. Below are steps and considerations to keep in mind when aiming to protect your construction accident claim in New Jersey:

Immediate Documentation:

  • Photograph Everything: Use a smartphone or camera to take pictures of the accident scene, including machinery, tools, safety signs, and any hazards or violations.
  • Collect Witness Information: Speak to anyone who might have seen the accident. Obtain their names, contact information, and brief statements if possible.

Seek Medical Attention:

  • Always seek immediate medical attention, even if injuries seem minor. Some complications may arise later, and a medical record establishes a connection between the accident and the injury.
  • Follow all prescribed treatments and attend follow-up appointments to showcase the severity and ongoing nature of your injuries.

Report the Incident:

  • Inform your supervisor or employer about the accident as soon as possible. This notification should be in writing and detail the events leading to the accident.
  • Ensure an official accident report is created, and obtain a copy for your records.

Maintain Records:

  • Keep a detailed account of all medical expenses, days off work, and any other costs or losses related to the accident.
  • Create a recovery diary. Note down your physical and emotional state daily. This can illustrate the injury’s impact on your life.

Avoid Giving Statements Without Legal Counsel:

  • Insurance adjusters might approach you for a statement. Always consult with an attorney before providing any statements or signing documents to ensure your rights are protected.
  • Avoid discussing the accident extensively with coworkers or on social media, as these statements can be used against you.

Consult a Specialized Attorney:

  • Seek counsel from an attorney experienced in New Jersey’s construction accident laws. They can provide guidance on your claim’s validity, potential compensation, and the best way forward.
  • An attorney can also help counteract tactics employed by insurance companies to reduce your compensation.

Understand Comparative Negligence:

  • Familiarize yourself with New Jersey’s modified comparative negligence system. Being prepared for potential arguments regarding shared fault can help in framing your case effectively.

Stay Updated:

  • Ensure all communication related to the accident—whether with your employer, the opposing party, insurance companies, or medical professionals—is well-documented. Regularly review these communications to stay updated on your case’s progression.

Preserve Evidence:

  • If you have any equipment or protective gear that played a role in the accident, preserve it without altering it. This can serve as evidence.

Stay Engaged:

  • While your attorney will handle the legal nuances, stay engaged with your case. Ask questions, provide insights, and be available for any necessary meetings or testimonies.

Contact an Experienced Construction Accident Lawyer at The Law Offices of Richard A. Stoloff for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today

Construction accidents in New Jersey, when viewed through the lens of comparative negligence, can present a complex legal landscape. Understanding how this principle applies is essential for anyone seeking compensation. The Law Offices of Richard A. Stoloff is committed to helping you navigate these complexities. With our extensive experience in handling construction accident claims in New Jersey, we aim to ensure you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve. If you’ve been injured, don’t face the legal maze alone—let us be your guiding light.