Does Comparative Negligence Impact Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a finding of comparative negligence can reduce a plaintiff’s damages award in a personal injury case, and in some circumstances can bar the plaintiff from recovery altogether. Can comparative negligence also impact wrongful death lawsuits in New Jersey and Pennsylvania? In short, the answer is yes. Our New Jersey and Pennsylvania wrongful death attorneys can explain in more detail.
Comparative Negligence Can Come Up in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Just as a defendant in a personal injury case can raise the issue of comparative negligence in order to reduce their own liability, or to avoid paying damages in a lawsuit, a defendant in a wrongful death case can also raise the defense of comparative negligence. Accordingly, if the defendant believes that the deceased’s own negligence or fault played a role in causing the accident that resulted in their death, you should consider that the defendant could raise the issue of comparative negligence.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania Apply Modified Comparative Negligence Rules
Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have “modified” comparative negligence rules, which means that a plaintiff can still recover damages as long as they were less than 51 percent at fault. In a wrongful death case, this means the plaintiff can still recover damages as long as the deceased person was less than 51 percent at fault. As long as the deceased was less than 51 percent at fault, the total damages award will be reduced by the deceased’s portion of fault. Otherwise, if the court finds that the deceased was 51 percent or more at fault, the plaintiff will be barred from recovery.
Plaintiff Can Still Defend Against Comparative Negligence
Although the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit is not the person who was injured (and thus is not the person who the defendant is accusing of also being at fault), the plaintiff can nonetheless defend against comparative negligence allegations raised by the defendant. The specific evidence you will use will depend upon the facts of the case. Typically, the evidence you have used to show that the defendant is liable will also be critical for proving that the defendant was fully at fault, and therefore that the defendant is responsible for paying 100 percent of the damages awarded by the court.
Contact a New Jersey and Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Attorney
If you lost a loved one in an accident or because of another party’s careless or intentional behavior, it may be possible to seek compensation through a wrongful death claim. It is important for you to know that defendants in wrongful death actions can still raise the issue of comparative negligence, but just like in a personal injury lawsuit, you can refute the defendant’s allegations. Further, even if the court does find that the deceased was partially at fault, it may still be possible to recover damages.
An experienced New Jersey and Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney at Monaco Law PC can say more. Joseph Monaco is a New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer serving Atlantic County, Burlington County, Cape May County, Camden County, Cumberland County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Salem County and all of South Jersey.