What is Contributory Negligence?

What is Contributory Negligence Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you are involved in a vehicle or other type of accident, the term contributory negligence might come up.

Contributory negligence is how the legal community describes the actions of an injured person who may have played a part in causing his or her own injury.

For example: if you are hit by a car while riding your bicycle, but you were riding on the wrong side of the road, then you could share in the blame for the accident, and your compensation could be affected.

Another example would be if you are dining in a restaurant and have a severe peanut allergy, but fail to notify the restaurant. If you eat something with peanuts and have an allergic reaction, it may be partially your fault for failing to tell the employees.

How does North Carolina’s contributory negligence law work?

North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that still abide by contributory negligence instead of comparative negligence, which is when the degree of fault is measured for each party, and then your compensation is based on that analysis.

In North Carolina, that’s not the case:

  • Even if you are only partially at fault in North Carolina, you cannot recover any compensation in your claim.
  • North Carolina does not have a comparative negligence law in place.
  • However, North Carolina does have legal doctrines which can overcome contributory negligence: If the defendant had the “last clear chance” to avoid the occurrence and injury, you may still recover; If the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, you may still recover; or if you were faced with a “sudden emergency” you may still recover. All of the above exceptions are factors to consider.

Only Alabama, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., join North Carolina in the list of places that go by the contributory negligence law.

How is contributory negligence evaluated?

Contributory negligence is calculated by something called the “standard of care” provision:

  • Standard of care applies to what a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.
  • To be considered contributory negligent, you must have done something that was negligent and caused the specific injury or damage that is at the center of the claim.
  • Just because you may have been negligent, it still must have caused or contributed to your injury in order to bar recovery.

What are the components of negligence?

Although laws vary from state to state, negligence, in general, is pretty standard across state lines. The following are considered elements of a negligence case:

  • The defendant had a responsibility to do a particular thing or refrain from doing said particular thing.
  • The defendant failed in that responsibility.
  • The defendant’s breach in responsibility caused injury to a person or damage to a thing.
  • The defendant’s actions or inactions were the reason why the plaintiff was injured or the property was damaged.  
  • The victim suffered actual damages that can be calculated, like lost wages from work, medical bills, etc.

If you or someone you love was in an accident, it’s important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney to work through the complexities of your case. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

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