If you’ve been injured in an accident, you likely have many questions about your legal rights and compensation options. Personal injury cases include a wide range of accidents and claims, and numerous parties are often involved. Accidents like car crashes, dog bites, slip and falls, and medical malpractice commonly include multiple people, but can more than one person be at fault for an accident? How does naming multiple defendants affect your personal injury case?

One Accident, Multiple Defendants

In personal injury cases, the person who was injured and filed the lawsuit is known as the plaintiff, and the person who is believed to be at fault is the defendant. It is possible for more than one person to be named as a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. In fact, there are many scenarios in which multiple defendants may be involved.

For example, medical malpractice cases may involve multiple doctors or other medical staff. A product liability lawsuit can name the company responsible for assembling the product and the manufacturer of faulty parts. It’s also possible for a car accident to be caused by more than one driver.

CPLR Article 16

Article 16 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) of New York discusses how liability is handled when more than one person or entity is responsible for an accident. It was enacted in 1966 and introduced legal guidelines for how liability is to be divided between defendants in personal injury cases. Prior to the CPLR, any one of the defendants in a lawsuit could be held responsible for paying all of the damages.

Current law under Article 16 states that defendants who are found to be less than 50% responsible can limit their liability for damages based on their percentage of fault. So if a defendant is determined to be 25% at fault for the injuries sustained by the victim, they are only responsible for paying 25% of the awarded damages. Any defendant found to be over 50% at fault may be required to cover the full amount of applicable damages to the victim.

What Does CPLR Article 16 Apply To?

Article 16 of the CPLR cannot be used in wrongful death cases and cannot be applied to claims for property damage. It is also not intended to apply to financial damages because all parties in a personal injury claim are jointly and severally liable for this. For example, a dog bite victim can recover compensation from a property owner for failing to maintain the fence and from the dog owner on the property for not controlling their dog. Financial damages tend to be easily calculated and straightforward, including medical expenses and loss of income.

The CPLR’s Article 16 is only to be used in claims for noneconomic damages, which are intangible and subjective losses incurred as a result of the accident or injury. Noneconomic damages include the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

While most of these damages involve psychological or emotional elements, accident victims can also be awarded noneconomic damages for scarring, disfigurement, and disabilities.

Can You Recover Damages if You Were at Fault?

This is a common question in personal injury cases because there is often an element or at least the suggestion of shared fault after an accident. In car accident cases and premises liability, for example, the injured person often questions whether they could have done something differently to avoid being hurt.

The CPLR also dictates how compensation is handled when fault is shared by the plaintiff and defendant. It is possible to be awarded compensation for your injuries even when you are partially at fault for the accident. New York uses a comparative fault system in personal injury cases, which means that the injured party’s compensation is reduced according to their fault.

If you were in a car accident and awarded $50,000 in damages, but the court found you were 20% at fault for the accident, you would only receive $40,000. That’s because the amount of damages must be reduced by 20% based on comparative fault regulations.

New York’s standard is considered a pure comparative system, meaning that an injured party could be found 99% liable for an accident and still receive that remaining 1% in damages.

Are you looking for guidance on what New York allows personal injury victims to recover? The attorneys at Seitelman Law Offices are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation and to discuss the details of your injury case.