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What is Contributory Negligence?

Contributory negligence is a common law doctrine that may be used as a defense against a claim of negligence. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, if a plaintiff is at fault by any degree in causing their injuries or damages, the plaintiff is barred from recovery from the defendant. There are only five remaining states that still recognizes the doctrine of contributory negligence. They are North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. All are considered pure contributory negligence states, in that even the slightest degree of fault will bar a plaintiff’s claim.

In contrast, some states such as South Carolina are comparative negligence states. Fault on the part of a plaintiff is not a complete bar, rather it is considered by a jury when determining the damage award. Only when a plaintiff’s negligence exceeds 50% would it operate to bar the plaintiffs claim.


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