Can a driver who helped cause a crash recover compensation?

New York law allows the injured to recover compensation for their damages when their injuries were caused by someone else's negligence. It's somewhat easy to see how this principle works in a relatively straightforward case. For instance, when a drunk driver carelessly smashes into a car that is stopped at a traffic light, it should not be hard for the driver who was stopped at the light to prove that the other driver's negligence caused her injuries.

However, in many car accidents, it is not easy to determine the cause. In some accidents, multiple vehicles are involved. In others, only two cars were involved, but both drivers did something wrong, such as exceeding the speed limit.

This raises an important question: If your actions contributed to the cause of the accident, can you still recover compensation?

The answer, as with so many questions in the law, is: "It depends."

The states treat these cases differently. In some states, anyone who has contributed to the cause of an accident is barred from recovering compensation, even if their contribution was minimal. By contrast, New York applies a legal theory known as contributory negligence.

Under New York law, a court will apportion cause for accidents in terms of percentages. If two parties were injured, both may recover compensation, but the amount of compensation is reduced in proportion to their share of the cause of the accident.

In some accidents, a court will determine that one driver was 100 percent to blame and therefore holds 100 percent of the liability for the accident. In other accidents, one driver may hold 80 percent, while the other holds 20 percent. In such a case, technically, if both were injured, both could recover compensation, but the first driver's compensation would be reduced by 80 percent and the other's by 20 percent.

If you have been injured in an accident, you know how pain and suffering, medical costs, lost wages and other damages can affect your life. Speaking to a personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and whether you have a good chance of recovering compensation.

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