Most personal injury lawsuits typically involve two parties. The party who was injured is the plaintiff in the lawsuit, and the party who caused the injury is the defendant. The plaintiff seeks compensation for injuries and damages from the defendant. 

However, some personal injury cases involve multiple parties. Several parties might be responsible for causing the person’s injuries. For example, truck accident cases often involve multiple defendants, such as the truck driver and trucking company. 

A car accident claim could have multiple defendants if several cars were involved in the accident. Medical malpractice claims and product liability claims also tend to involve multiple defendants.

Article 16 applies in cases that involve multiple defendants. It determines how much money each party may have to pay if a jury determines they are responsible for causing the plaintiff’s injuries and damages.

What is Article 16?

Article 16 is a section of the New York Consolidated Laws Civil Practice Laws & Rules (CPLR). CPLR §1601 explains the law regarding the limited liability of persons who are jointly liable for damages in a personal injury case. 

Before Article 16 was enacted in 1966, any party responsible for causing an accident could be held liable for the entire amount of damages sustained because of the accident. In other words, if three parties were responsible for causing an injury, any one of those parties could be liable for the full amount of damages.

However, under Article 16, any party who has less than 50 percent fault for the cause of the accident can limit their damages. Their damages are limited to the percentage of fault. In other words, if a party is 30 percent at fault for the cause of an accident, that party only has to pay 30 percent of the damages.

If any party’s liability for the cause of the accident is 50 percent or higher, the plaintiff can seek full compensation for all damages from that party.

Article 16 does not apply in cases involving wrongful death. It also does not apply to property damage claims. 

Article 16 Only Applies to Noneconomic Damages

Article 16 applies to noneconomic damages in a personal injury case. Noneconomic damages refer to the “pain and suffering” a person sustains because of the accident or injury. 

Non-economic loss is defined in Article 16 as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Other damages for noneconomic loss

In most personal injury cases, noneconomic loss also includes damages such as scarring, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, disability, and permanent impairment.

Article 16 Does Not Apply to Financial Damages

When there are multiple parties involved in a personal injury claim, all parties are jointly and severally liable for financial damages. Financial damages in an injury case include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Personal care
  • Loss of earning potential
  • Travel expenses

A plaintiff can recover all financial losses from any defendant for a personal injury claim. For instance, if a dog owner and property owner share liability for a dog bite claim, the victim can recover financial losses from either defendant.

The defendants can pursue legal claims against each other for reimbursement of a portion of the damages according to their percentage of fault. 

What Happens When the Plaintiff is Partially at Fault?

In some personal injury cases, a plaintiff could have some liability for the cause of the accident. For example, a motorcyclist could have been speeding at the time of the motorcycle accident. A jury might find that the motorcyclist was partially to blame for the cause of the crash.

If so, another section of the CPLR governs how damages are divided among the parties.

Under CPLR §1411, the plaintiff’s damages can be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault for the cause of the accident. This theory is known as comparative fault.

For example, if the jury finds the motorcyclist is 20 percent at fault for the accident, the compensation paid to the rider is reduced by 20 percent.

New York adopted a pure comparative fault standard. Under this standard, there is no bar to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. A person could be 99 percent responsible for the cause of his or her injury and still recover one percent of the damages from the defendants.

Dividing Fault in Personal Injury Cases

Insurance companies often try to use Article 16 or comparative fault to avoid liability or a claim. It is generally a wise decision to seek advice and guidance from an experienced personal injury lawyer whenever there are multiple parties involved in a case, or the at-fault party tries to blame the victim for causing the accident.