The Difference Between Contributory and Comparative Negligence

Author: Auger Law | April 18th, 2016

car accidentProperty is damaged in car accidents every day. In many cases, people are injured in these accidents. One of the first questions asked is: “Whose fault is it?” Contributory and comparative negligence can answer this question. But how? Let’s discuss both.

Negligence in Accidents

Negligence is a term freely tossed about after an accident, but you may not be clear on what it means. In a court of law, negligence means that someone acted in a way that a reasonable person would not have. When someone’s negligence causes another person to be injured or property to be damaged, that person is legally responsible for paying for the damages or making restitution.

If you hope to win a negligence claim, you and your attorney will have to prove:

  • The defendant had a duty to act reasonably
  • The defendant failed to act reasonably
  • The defendant’s actions caused your injuries
  • You actually suffered injury

Contributory Negligence

In North Carolina, courts consider contributory negligence when deciding personal injury cases. Contributory negligence is the conduct that creates a risk to yourself or another. An individual, according to the law, has the responsibility to behave in such a way that another reasonable person would. When they do not act in this way, they can be found liable in a court of law. Here is an example:

A motorist strikes pedestrian. The pedestrian was not using a crosswalk and did not heed the warning of a do-not-cross sign. Who is at fault? The pedestrian is because they did not act reasonably to ensure their own safety.

If the defendant can prove contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff, the plaintiff may not receive any compensation, or the compensation received may be reduced.

Comparative Negligence

Other states have a comparative negligence approach. In these cases, each party’s negligence is taken into account when determining the amount of damages that will be awarded. There are two approaches:

1. Pure Comparative Negligence: The damages incurred by the plaintiff are totaled and then reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s contribution to the injury. For example, a plaintiff is awarded $10,000. The judge determines that the plaintiff was 50% responsible for the injury. The plaintiff will be awarded $5,000.

2. Modified Comparative Negligence: If the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more responsible for their injuries, they are found to be equally responsible and not awarded anything.

If you have been involved in a car accident in North Carolina, call our office. A member of our team will review the details of your case and help you determine if you are entitled to compensation under the law. Your first consultation is free. Reach out to us now today.

Posted In: Personal Injury