What is Contributory Negligence?

What is Contributory Negligence Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you are involved in a vehicle accident, the term contributory negligence might come up. Contributory negligence is the legal term for the actions of an injured person who may have played a part in causing their 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, you could share the blame for the accident, and your compensation could be affected. Another example would be dining in a restaurant and having a severe peanut allergy but failing 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. 

Not every state has the contributory negligence law; actually, few do. North Carolina happens to be one such state. As a result, contributory negligence can be a challenging lawsuit. Personal injury attorney Robert Armstrong, located in Wilmington, North Carolina, is here to help you navigate it and understand the basics of the law. 

How does North Carolina’s contributory negligence law work?

North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that still abide by the contributory negligence law. 

This rule means that if a judge determines that you are at fault in any manner — even if you are just one percent at fault for the car accident — you cannot recover anything in damages even if the other party is ninety-nine percent at fault. 

(This law is different from most states in which you can be partially at fault and still receive compensation.)

Last Clear Chance Doctrine 

North Carolina does have legal doctrines which can override contributory negligence. 

One example is the Last Clear Chance Doctrine. North Carolina courts have outlined the elements of the last clear chance doctrine as follows:

  • The plaintiff, by the plaintiff’s own negligence, put themselves into a position of helpless peril;
  • Defendant discovered, or should have discovered, the position of the plaintiff;
  • The defendant had the time and ability to avoid the injury;
  • Defendant negligently failed to do so; and
  • Plaintiff was injured as a result of the defendant’s failure to prevent the injury.

Essentially, if the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, you might still be able to receive money for damages. The Last Clear Chance Doctrine is usually a case-by-case basis, so having a lawyer on your side could significantly improve your chances of using this tactic effectively. 

Duty of Care

Duty of care is a legal term that refers to the responsibility one person has to avoid causing harm to another. 

It is a type of social contract that includes individuals’ implicit responsibilities towards others within society. In most cases, every person has at least some duty of care toward others. 

When a person engages in an activity, they are under a legal duty to act as a reasonable, ordinary, and prudent person in the same or similar circumstances, often known as the “standard of care” or the “reasonable person standard.” Everyone must take reasonable care to avoid injury to others.

Standard of Care Provision

Contributory negligence is calculated by something called the standard of care provision, which is an offshoot of duty of care. 

An at-fault driver’s conduct is measured against that of a reasonable, ordinary, prudent person. The “reasonable person” standard is measured objectively in that it does not consider the emotional state, opinions, or status of the at-fault party. In other words, the at-fault party is deemed to have knowledge of things known by the average member of society and expected to act as one would under similar circumstances. 

Three simple takeaways for the Standard of Care Provision include: 

  • Standard of care applies to what a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.
  • To be considered contributory negligence, you must have done something that was both 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.

In North Carolina, children are not held to the same standard of care for negligence as adults. 

Contact Attorney Robert Armstrong 

Located in Wilmington, North Carolina, Robert Armstrong is here to help you navigate the challenges that occur with the contributory negligence law or any other issues with your car accident case. As an experienced personal injury attorney firm, we are committed to working through the complexities of your case. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help contact (910) -256-1233 for a consultation. 

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