Tiger Woods : New Jersey: Please tell me about comparative negligence which is applicable under auto insurance? Please explain to me when this condition comes into force in auto insurance.

Response : The Comparative Negligence Act is not prevalent in all parts of USA. New Jersey has a “comparative negligence” law under auto insurance or car insurance but it comes into play only at the time of claim. When an auto accident takes place more than one person can be at fault in an accident. Under this law, you can collect damages only if your degree of fault does not exceed that of other driver(s) in the accident. The settlement, however, can be reduced by your percentage of fault.
In auto insurance, comparative negligence is a term used to indicate the degree of fault each individual involved in an accident contributes to the cause of the accident. In New Jersey the insurance company investigates the accident and determines how much each individual or vehicle involved contributed to the accident occurring. If you are seeking reimbursement from your own insurance company under your collision coverage, comparative negligence does not apply. However, if you are pursuing a claim against the other driver, his or her insurance company will determine whether and to what extent that driver is at fault for the accident.
The Comparative Negligence Act permits insurance companies to determine responsibility for an accident in proportion to fault of the involved parties. The insurer will review the facts and investigate then assign a percentage of liability to the parties involved in the accident based on contributing factors. Examples of these factors include such things as, failing to observe and avoid the other vehicle, failing to sound the horn, apply brakes or swerve and/or driver inattention.
Some terms you may come across when discussing negligence issues with the insurance company are:
1) proximate cause of the collision: this means the primary reason the accident occurred such as a driver not stopping at a stop sign -this is the main reason for the accident to have happened.
2) greater duty of care: such as a person pulling out of a stop sign having the responsibility to be certain no cars are coming before pulling out;
3) last clear chance to avoid the collision: meaning the person who could have done something to avoid the accident occurring and evasive action, meaning the actions a driver can take to avoid the accident.
Here is an illustration for a comparative negligence under auto insurance:
For example, if the other driver is 80% at fault and you are 20% at fault, you can collect for your damages because you were not more than 50% at fault. However, the other driver’s insurer will only offer to pay for 80% of your damages.
Other points to remember:
o While traffic citations and convictions under New Jersey’s motor vehicle laws are factors often used to assess liability, neither necessarily means that a driver is 100% responsible for an accident. The fact that another driver may have been issued a citation or was even convicted of a moving traffic violation, and you were not, does not necessarily mean that some degree of liability still can’t be assessed to you for contributing to the accident.
o When you file a “third party” claim with another insurer, you do not have a contract with that insurer and their primary obligation is to their own policyholder.

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