In its 2010 session, the North Carolina Senate will decide whether to put an end to the archaic doctrine of contributory negligence and adopt a form of comparative negligence. Presently, North Carolina is one of only 5 states that follows contributory negligence, meaning if an injured party is partially responsible for his injury, even if only 1%, he is prevented from recovering any damages from the party primarily at fault.
The proposed new law, HB 813, modeled after the Uniform Apportionment of Tort Responsibility Act (UATRA), passed the North Carolina House of Representatives in May, 2009. Under the proposed HB 813, an injured party will be prevented from recovering damages only if his contributory fault is greater than or equal to the other at fault party. In a situation where more than one party is at fault, as long as the plaintiff’s fault does not add up to more than that of the other at fault parties combined, the plaintiff may recover part of the damages caused by each at fault party.
How does this affect the average auto accident victim? Lets say you were involved in an auto accident in which the at-fault party made a left turn in front of you, causing you to collide with their vehicle. Assume you were traveling 45mph in a posted 35mph zone. Under the current system of contributory negligence, the insurance company for the left-turning vehicle could deny your claim due to your traveling above the speed limit. Under the proposed HB 813, a jury would determine your percentage of fault and apportion your damages accordingly, as long as you were less than 50% at fault.
If HB 813 passes, it will mean more injured parties will receive compensation they are rightfully entitled to. Often times, a police officer investigates an accident scene and is “unable to determine” fault. Passage of HB 813 will give greater leverage to people who find themselves in this situation.
Contact your NC Senator and tell them you want them to vote “YES” on HB 813. To find out who your senator is, go to the NC General Assembly Senate page.