What Is Contributory Negligence?

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If you were involved in an accident and want to file a compensation claim, the other party may argue that you were partly at fault. The claim refers to contributory negligence, a legal standard that bars you from recovering damages from the defendant. Alternatively, it may reduce the compensation amount you’re entitled to from the other party.

If the defendant uses contributory negligence as a defense during a proceeding, you may not be entitled to any compensation despite sustaining injuries. A personal injury law firm in Charlotte can defend you and try to show why you’re not to blame for the accident and why you deserve to get the total settlement amount.

How Does Contributory Negligence Work?

The principle of contributory negligence applies in North Carolina. That means that if you contribute to your injuries in any way, you’re not eligible to receive compensation. People commonly use the principle as a defense against claims based on negligence.

The truth is that in every situation, both parties could have partial fault for the accident. The question is which party is more responsible for the injuries. That’s why it helps to work with a Car accident lawyer in Charlotte to help establish liability or the percentage of liability in a trial.

They will review the actions that led to the accident and determine how to assign fault. The process is usually complex, given that the defense lawyers representing the defendant’s insurance company will fight back to limit responsibility to the least possible extent. Ensure that the lawyer you hire is experienced and skilled in matters of contributory negligence.

What Are the Significant Elements of Contributory Negligence?

A defendant can aggressively fight in court to avoid taking responsibility for the injuries they inflict on the plaintiff by using the contributory negligence defense. However, for this defense strategy to be successful, they must prove that:

  • The plaintiff failed in their duty to protect themselves
  • The plaintiff didn’t act prudently in a way another person would have acted under similar circumstances
  • The plaintiff’s negligence was partly or fully to blame for the injuries

The principle of contributory negligence is rigid, and some states have modified it to prevent unfair outcomes, leaving a small window of opportunity for the plaintiff to recover damages. That is known as the “last clear chance.”

Last Clear Chance Principle

A plaintiff can fight for compensation under the contributory negligence law despite their fault in the accident under the last chance rule. They must prove that:

  • The defendant was involved in the accident and was the last person that could have prevented it
  • The defendant had reasonable means to avoid the damage
  • The defendant didn’t exercise these means to prevent the harm

What is the Difference Between Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a principle the jury uses to determine how much fault or blame a plaintiff and defendant should be assigned for negligence. In this case, damages are awarded depending on the degree of negligence determined by the court.

On the contrary, contributory negligence prevents the plaintiff from collecting compensation. Most states in the United States use the comparative negligence approach instead of contributory negligence to achieve judicial or statute decisions. Two types of comparative negligence exist:

Pure Comparative Negligence

Under this principle, the plaintiff can pursue damages regardless of the percentage of fault in the accident. For example, if you were 10% at fault in an accident and got awarded 90% in damages, you can still pursue the other 10% with the help of a skilled attorney. Even being at 90% fault doesn’t stop you from filing for and pursuing damages.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Modified comparative negligence is closely similar to pure negligence. The most significant difference is that it caps the plaintiff’s compensation amount to a specific percentage of fault. That is usually 50 or 51 percent.

A car accident lawyer in Charlotte, NC, can help you understand your options if you’re unsure which one applies to your case. They can also fight to help you get fair compensation for damages and injuries.

Example of Comparative Negligence

Consider this situation: Driver A makes a left turn and hits driver B, who is driving over the speed limit, and driver B sustains injuries. Driver B sues driver A for damages. In a comparative negligence case, Driver A is found to have 80% fault for not making a safe left turn. Driver B may be at 20% fault for speeding.

Assuming the total damages recoverable by the plaintiff are $200,000, they’ll receive $160,000 instead of the total amount. That’s because the comparative negligence principle requires that the compensation amount be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault, in this case, 20%.

How Can the Court Establish Negligence on My Part?

The law requires every road user to use reasonable care for their safety and that of others. The court may deem you negligent if you:

  • Were speeding as a driver
  • Ran a red light
  • Were driving too slowly
  • Followed another car too closely
  • Made sudden or unexpected movements or were jaywalking as a pedestrian
  • Were texting while driving
  • Rode in a car you knew was defective
  • Allowed a drunk, sleepy, or reckless driver to ride you

The defendant must also show that your negligence played a role in causing the accident. You could recover compensation if your negligence only worsened the injuries but was not responsible for the accident. A skilled Charlotte car accident attorney can fight for the most favorable outcome.

An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Fighting for Your Rights

Cases involving contributory negligence and comparative negligence principles can be complex. Working with an experienced car accident attorney in Charlotte is your best bet for winning such cases and getting the compensation you deserve. Ensure you engage the services of a skilled lawyer and avoid facing the jury alone.

Our Charlotte personal injury law firm has a team of dedicated and compassionate attorneys who can provide the legal representation you need. We have been representing victims for over a decade, helping them get the justice they deserve, and we can help you too. Contact us to schedule a FREE consultation with an experienced attorney.

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