Contributory Negligence and Personal Injury Law in North Carolina

Involved in an Accident in North Carolina? Contributory Negligence Law in NC and Personal Injury Law in Other Jurisdictions

Contributory Negligence

Let’s say you are involved in a car accident in North Carolina. You are injured and expect that you will be compensated for your injuries even if you were found partially at fault. Well, you probably would be quite disappointed to find out that in North Carolina, if the jury finds that you are even 1% at fault, you would collect nothing. Unlike the majority of states, five jurisdictions- North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, follow this contributory negligence rule. It seems pretty unfair and crazy.

Under North Carolina’s old common law rule of contributory negligence, if a plaintiff in a personal injury matter is found to have contributed any percentage of fault to the accident and their injuries, then they cannot recover anything from the defendant. A good North Carolina personal injury attorney may be able to argue in certain cases that either the defendant’s willful and wanton acts caused the accident or the defendant could have avoided the accident. Then the defendant may still be held accountable for the damages even if the plaintiff was found to have contributed to the accident.

If you want to know how North Carolina’s contributory negligence rule compares to states that have adopted comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence rules, here is what you might be interested in knowing:

Comparative Negligence and Modified Comparative Negligence Rules

The majority of other states follow a more fair rule of comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence, which allows the damaged party to recover damages based upon either a reduced or prohibited basis depending on the percentage of fault that is assigned to the plaintiff.

States that follow a pure comparative negligence rule include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota or Washington.

So let’s say plaintiff Bill was involved in an accident in a pure comparative negligence rule state such as Florida. Bill is seeking $15,000 in damages, and he is found to be 10% at fault. Bill would still be able to recover his damages, less his reduced percentage of fault. So Bill would recover $13,500 in damages.

States that follow a modified comparative negligence 50% rule include: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia. As an example, if our same plaintiff Bill is found to be 50% at fault in Georgia, then Bill would still be able to recover 50% of the $15,000 damages or $7,500.

State that follow a modified comparative negligence 51% rule include: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, new Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. If plaintiff Bill was found to be 51% or more negligent in Minnesota, he would recover nothing.

While there have been past attempts to change the contributory negligence law in North Carolina, these bills have been unsuccessful in getting passed by our legislature. North Carolina’s insurance industry’s opposition to changes is one of the primary obstacles in getting the law changed because insurance companies here in North Carolina would have to pay out more in claims if the state adopted a comparative negligence rule. However, other states have been able to adopt more fair rules that help injured persons and North Carolina should be able to adopt new polices that help injured victims here as well.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a North Carolina personal injury accident, you should hire a North Carolina personal injury attorney to represent you. Having an experienced and knowledgeable North Carolina personal injury attorney on your side, who understands North Carolina’s contributory negligence rules, can make a difference in the outcome of your case.