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How North Carolina’s Contributory Negligence Laws May Affect Your Case

May 10, 2022 Brown Moore & Associates Personal Injury

If you’re injured as a result of someone else’s negligence in North Carolina, you typically have the right to seek compensation for your medical bills and other such losses. However, you may not be able to properly recover compensation if you were also negligent when your accident occurred. This brief guide will explain what you need to know about this critical nuance in regard to North Carolina personal injury cases.

Understanding Comparative Negligence Outside of North Carolina

North Carolina’s approach to contributory negligence in personal injury cases is unique when compared to that of most other states. Most states in the country have laws based around some form of the comparative negligence model. In these states, the degree to which an injured person contributed to their own injuries will be accounted for when determining how much compensation they may be eligible to recover.

For example, in another state, an injured person might initially think they are eligible to recover up to $10,000 in damages. However, perhaps it is determined that they were 10 percent responsible for their accident and injuries. In this scenario, the maximum amount of compensation they would be eligible to recover would be $9,000.

There are also states which prohibit victims from pursuing and recovering compensation for their losses if they are more than 50 percent responsible for their injuries. In the example above, if it was determined that the injured party was 55 percent responsible for the harm that befell them, they would not have the right to recover any compensation whatsoever.

What is North Carolina’s Contributory Negligence Law?

North Carolina’s contributory negligence law is much stricter than the types of comparative negligence laws described above. In North Carolina, if a plaintiff is found to have contributed to their accident to any degree, they cannot recover compensation. This is true even if a plaintiff is only one percent to blame for the accident occurring.

An Example of Contributory Negligence in North Carolina

The following example may help you better understand how a person may be determined to have contributed to their injuries after being harmed primarily as a result of someone else’s negligence.

Maybe you’re a pedestrian who has the right of way and thus enters a crosswalk to cross the street. While doing so, you are struck by a speeding driver who failed to properly yield the right of way.

It may seem obvious that the driver was negligent and is thus responsible for compensating you accordingly. That said, it might be discovered that you did not look both ways before crossing the street. Maybe you were also quickly checking your phone when crossing and were distracted as a result.

This would give the defendant’s attorney reason to argue that your accident would not have happened had you been more careful. If they present their argument successfully, you will not be able to recover compensation.

What if I’m Accused of Contributory Negligence in North Carolina?

The fact that someone is attempting to use the contributory negligence defense to avoid compensating you after an accident does not necessarily mean they are presenting the facts of the case accurately. To guard against being barred from recovery due to false claims of contributory negligence, hire a qualified Charlotte personal injury attorney to represent you. Our team at Brown Moore & Associates, PLLC will help you demonstrate that contributory negligence was not a factor in your case. Get started by contacting us online to schedule your free consultation.