Contributory Negligence is a type of defense to civil legal claims alleging negligence and “fault.” Negligence claims in North Carolina involving accidents are generally subject to the Common Law defense of “contrib” as some legal professionals may call it.
When appropriate, proper pleading of contributory negligence in an Answer to a lawsuit may result in completely precluding recovery. It serves as a complete “bar” to recover damages for injuries that may be the result of car accidents, wrecks, and other lawsuits involving claims of negligent operation of a vehicle.
Contributory negligence is not limited to personal injury claims involving accidents. It may also apply for lawsuits alleging assault, battery, and other “torts” involving allegations of damages, permanent injuries, and wrongful death claims.
It is an affirmative defense alleging Plaintiff contributed to the accident and therefore should not be able to recover any form of damages or fair compensation.
What is a Tort?
A “tort” under the law is an act (or the failure to act when required) that results in harm or injury.
It may result from a defendant in a lawsuit acting wrongfully or otherwise be an infringement of a legal right. The failure to act or act appropriately considering the rights and safety of others, under tort law, may result in a legal responsibility or “civil liability.”
Under the common law of North Carolina, contributory negligence serves as a valid defense to tort claims including those alleging negligence and wrongful death claims. It is what Plaintiffs’ lawyers (and defense lawyers) may describe as a complete bar or defense against the plaintiff’s claims.
Plaintiff is barred from recovery. Plaintiff, even if severely injured, gets nothing. The injured party does not recover medical bills or the costs of treatment.
The idea behind contributory negligence is that the injured parties in some way contributed to their own injury or damages. In NC, if the plaintiff is even marginally responsible for their injuries and damages, under the legal theory of contributory negligence, the plaintiff will recover nothing.
Insurance companies regularly allege “contrib” (Contributory Negligence) in denying claims, arguing pure comparative negligence bars any and all forms of recovery including lost wages, pain, suffering, medical bills, disfigurement, scarring, and permanent injuries.
Contributory negligence often leads to an unfair or harsh result. As such, the majority of the US has abolished contributory negligence. Certain states have adopted something called comparative negligence or comparative fault in determining legal responsibility for accidents and injuries.
In comparative negligence states, the injured person’s recovery (the Plaintiff) for damages awarded is reduced by the percentage of fault the Plaintiff is responsible for his or her own injuries, thus affecting the Plaintiff’s recovery.
Who determines Contributory Negligence in NC?
It is up to the Finder of fact to make the determination our fault and the apportionment of responsibility for injuries.
That is not the case in North Carolina. If the plaintiff is even minimally at fault, she or he may be completely precluded from recovering any amount.
Contributory negligence in the United States was prevalent in the 1800s and 1900s. The idea of contributory negligence originates in Great Britain with the 1st case cited Butterfield v Forester.
When alleging the affirmative defense, the defendant bears the burden of proof to show the plainness in the cause of action was in fact negligent themselves. As such, the defendant must affirmatively plead the defense and prove the plaintiff was in fact negligent and therefore not entitled to recovery for their injury and damages.
The Burden of Proof may shift back and forth in contributory negligence states as there is an additional doctrine recognized in North Carolina called last clear chance.
The Finder of Fact may consider which party (the “last party”) had the opportunity to take action, thus avoiding an accident or injury. It is a relatively complicated legal issue.
If you have questions about Contributory Negligence in North Carolina, legal liability, and the Doctrine of Last Clear Chance, consult an attorney immediately.
Outer Banks Accident Lawyer – Danny Glover Law Firm
If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another, give Outer Banks lawyer Danny Glover a call immediately.
We love helping people get through difficult times. Consultations are free of charge, Danny Glover, OPX lawyer.
Bringing a cause of action may be subject to certain timing/filing requirements. A Statute of Limitations does apply in North Carolina.
Making a claim for damages with an Insurance Defense carrier does not ordinarily “toll” the Statute of Limitations.
As such, if you or a loved one has been seriously hurt due to the negligence of another, including accidents involving trucks, semi-trailers, 18 wheelers, bicycles, and motorcycles, we are here to help.
Call OBX Attorney Danny Glover now.