You’re driving straight through an intersection. An oncoming car doesn’t see your motorcycle and begins to make a left turn in front of you, striking your motorcycle and causing you to be hurt. Assume you are partially at fault because you were speeding at 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. Are you able to make a claim and be compensated for your injuries?
The answer to the question in this accident and other accidents where you may be partially at fault is yes, in New York and other comparative negligence states. Comparative negligence allows both parties to an accident to be compensated for injuries when each party has some degree of negligence in causing the accident. The responsibility to the other person (or persons) is reduced by the other party’s degree of negligence.
Suppose a jury decides that because you were speeding, you are 20% responsible for causing the accident and the other driver, who didn’t see your motorcycle, is 80% responsible. If you were hurt and the jury determines that your injuries are worth $500,000, your compensation would be reduced by 20% to $400,000 because the jury found you to be 20% at fault.
What you say to the police officer at the scene of an accident will be recorded on the police report and will have a significant impact upon a jury. Even if your case is settled without going to trial, settlements are based upon what will likely happen at trial. Consequently, never lie to the police, but never volunteer any information that indicates you were at fault.
You are not required to admit guilt. For instance, in the example above, do not volunteer that you were speeding. Since most people do not understand what can be used against them, it is best not to say anything. Do not give any explanations other than what the other driver did to cause the accident. Obtain the names, addresses and phone numbers of all witnesses and always call a lawyer immediately after an accident to protect your rights. Your lawyer can obtain witness statements and immediately take steps to protect your rights.