The last thing anybody expects is that they will sustain an injury caused by the careless or negligent actions of another individual, business, or entity. Unfortunately, injuries occur all the time, and it is important for victims to be able to recover compensation for their losses. However, the state of North Carolina operates under a contributory negligence system which can complicate the process of recovering compensation for injury victims. Here, we want to define contributory negligence and make sure that you know how this can affect any potential injury case you are involved in.
Contributory negligence – the harsh reality of NC law
North Carolina is one of the few states that still operates under a pure contributory negligence system. Under this system, if a person sustains an injury and it is determined that they were in any way responsible for the incident, they will not be able to recover compensation from the other party, regardless of how much the other party may have contributed to the incident.
For example, if a person is involved in a vehicle accident and found to be 1% at fault and the other party is found to be 99% at fault, then the person who was 1% at fault will still not be able to recover compensation under the contributory negligence system.
If we turn to the NC Supreme Court, we can see that the Court has explained the contributory negligence doctrine this way:
- “Every person has the capacity to exercise ordinary care for his own safety against injury is required by law to do so, and if he fails to exercise such care, and such failure, concurring and cooperating with the actionable negligence of defendant contributes to the injury complained of, he is guilty of contributory negligence. Ordinary care is such care as an ordinarily prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances to avoid injury.” Hahne v. Hanzel, 161 N.C. App. 494, 497-98, 588 S.E.2d 915, 917 (2003), citing Clark v. Roberts, 263 N.C. 336, 343, 139 S.E.2d 593, 597 (1965).
This system is different than the comparative negligence laws that most other states have adopted. In other states around the country, with the exception of four others and DC, the comparative negligence system allows the recovery of compensation even if a person is partially at fault for their injuries. In most cases, a person can recover compensation if they are less than 50% responsible for the incident, but some states allow recovery even if the person is up to 99% at fault.
Always work with an attorney when determining negligence
If you or somebody you care about has been injured due to the careless or negligent actions of another party, you need to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. You can be sure that the insurance carrier and at-fault party will do what they can to place some of the blame for the incident on you. This could activate the contributory negligence law, which has the potential to completely derail your ability to recover compensation. At Price Petho & Associates P.L.L.C., our team is standing by to help you through this. You can contact us for a free consultation of your case by clicking here or calling 704-850-6322.