Understanding Comparative Negligence with Buddy the Elf

December 17, 2020

Discuss how Comparative Negligence can impact your case with a NJ Certified Trial Attorney

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Understanding Comparative Negligence with Buddy the ElfThe movie Elf introduces us to Buddy the Elf, a human adopted and raised by elves sent on a quest to find his biological father in New York City. Buddy’s adventure is filled with comical culture shocks as the man that has never left the North Pole tries to navigate the big city. Buddy’s childlike innocence is sweet and refreshing in this instant Christmas classic.

Buddy’s mission is to spread Christmas cheer wherever he goes. Christmas spirit, after all, is what makes Santa’s reindeer fly.

Buddy’s journey begins in the North Pole, where he must travel through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, past the sea of swirly and twirly gumdrops, and then through the Lincoln Tunnel to get to NYC.

Buddy is initially overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city, but also immediately finds fun and adventure where most adults would miss it. Buddy hops down busy Manhattan streets grabbing flyers, spins continuously making a ride out of a revolving door, and creates a beautiful light show with elevator buttons.

Buddy’s naivety is showcased in one brief and underrated scene that is the primary focus of this blog. As Buddy casually strolls across the street, he is drilled by a taxi and thrown up in the air. He is uninjured and quickly learns to beware of taxis, as they will not stop for anyone, even a large man dressed as an elf. However, what if he was injured? Would Buddy have recourse against the taxi driver for his injuries?

What is Comparative Negligence?

To answer that question, we must explore comparative negligence. As always, our discussion focuses on New Jersey law as if the accident had occurred in this jurisdiction. For discussion sake, let’s assume that Buddy suffered multiple fractures or internal injury when he was a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle. Under ordinary Negligence standard, Buddy would have to demonstrate the following four elements:

  1. Duty
  2. Breach
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

Owing a Duty and Breaching that Duty in an Injury Claim

In other words, Buddy must show that the driver of the taxi owed him a duty and breached that duty, which was the proximate cause of his injuries. There’s no question that a driver of any motor vehicle has a duty to observe and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. By not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and thereafter striking the pedestrian with a motor vehicle, the driver breaches a duty and would thereby be responsible for injury caused to that pedestrian. However, this is not absolute. Pedestrians may not dart out into traffic either expecting recovery from a lawsuit if they are injured.

Determining Fault on a Case by Case Basis in NJ Courts

Enter comparative negligence. In New Jersey, an individual’s fault for an accident cannot be more than the individual from whom damages are sought. New Jersey law does not provide specific guidelines for assessing fault, and the amount of fault is determined on a case-by-case basis by the trier of fact (typically a jury) depending on the circumstances.

Determining Fault on a Case by Case Basis in NJ CourtsFor instance, Buddy may proceed to trial against the taxi driver for the injuries he sustained when he was hit. After listening to the testimony of Buddy and his doctors, the jury may decide that the taxi driver breached a duty owed to Buddy, the pedestrian in a crosswalk when the taxi struck Buddy.  As a result, the jury awards Buddy $1,000,000.00 for his injuries. However, Buddy’s reward may be reduced significantly if the jury determines that he had a comparative fault in the accident. If the jury determines that Buddy was 10% responsible for the accident, his reward would be reduced by $100,000.00. If he were 20% responsible, his award would be reduced by $200,000.00 and so on. If the jury determines that Buddy was more than 51% responsible for the accident, Buddy will recover nothing.

Ultimately, it would be a jury determination if Buddy would recover anything under the circumstances of this accident.  The fact that Buddy is new to the city and did not understand traffic patterns would not absolve him of responsibility to watch where he was going.

Contact our West Long Branch Personal Injury and Serious Accident Lawyers Today

It is important to speak with an experienced attorney immediately to determine if you have a case, even if you think you contributed to your damages, you may still have a claim.

The personal injury attorneys of Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh understand that in complex personal injury claims, issues surrounding comparative negligence can mean the difference between full and fair settlements and walking away empty-handed.

We take pride in protecting the legal rights of our clients in our local New Jersey communities, including West Long Branch, Red Bank, Freehold, Middletown, Hotel, Long Branch, Ocean County, and the greater Monmouth County area. Lean on our extensive experience and intimate knowledge of personal injury law to seek to ensure your family’s financial future.

To meet with an experienced member of our firm today regarding your claim, please contact us online or by phone at 732-440-3950.