North Carolina is an at-fault state. It is one of four states in which injured people cannot recover if they contribute in any way to their injury. The contributory negligence rule in North Carolina is a pure contributory negligence rule. To collect damages, the injured party must be free of negligence.
Comparative negligence is the opposite of the at-fault standard. Comparative negligence weighs the conduct of each side to determine the part played by negligence. In comparative negligence states, an injured party can recover even though he or she may have contributed to the accident.
In a comparative negligence state, the court hears the facts and identifies the conduct of each party. The count assesses the part each person’s negligence played in the accident and injury. The court then apportions the injury by a percentage. A person found to have contributed 25 percent of the negligence that caused the injury can still recover damages. The amount of recovery is reduced by the extent contributed to the cause. In the 25 percent example, the party’s recovery would be reduced by 25 percent.
The courts in North Carolina compare the potential negligence to help decide the extent of fault by each party. The outcome is drastically different than comparative negligence states. In North Carolina, comparative negligence blocks the injured plaintiff from recovery.
The Role of Contributory Negligence
In a no-fault jurisdiction, fault is not an issue for recovery. Each person’s insurance pays the property and injury claims of the other. In no-fault jurisdictions, drivers get medical coverage from their policies as personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.
In a comparative negligence jurisdiction, contributory negligence can reduce the recovery. Each person collects less the part they caused.
In at-fault jurisdictions, contributory negligence bars recovery. A small amount of negligence can bar recovery for an injured plaintiff. The contributory negligence rule can produce some difficult results. For example, a severely injured person may have no recovery when the court determines that a minor part of the cause of the accident came from the injured party. A 99 percent responsible defendant can avoid paying damages against a victim that contributed one percent of the negligence.
Proving Fault in North Carolina
Traffic accidents typically involve physical evidence, eyewitness evidence, and police reports. The medical record demonstrates the extent and severity of the injury. Physical evidence, eyewitnesses, and the police report can help establish fault and that the victim was free of negligence.
An experienced accident attorney will assemble the evidence for filing claims with insurance companies and a legal action to recover damages. The medical reports are essential for showing the court and jury the basis for a full, fair, and just recovery of damages. The attorney can help build the case evidence and guide the injured person as they prepare for testimony
Legal Assistance Needed
The difference between a finding of contributory negligence and a finding of fault in the defendant is dramatic. If the court finds a tiny degree of contributory negligence the plaintiff gets nothing. Drivers injured by the negligence of other drivers in North Carolina have a steep burden. Insurers will dig deep to discover any possible claim of contributory negligence. Most injured drivers will substantially benefit from the assistance of experienced accident lawyers.
The ‘at fault’ rule in North Carolina is a significant factor in accident and injury cases. If you or someone you know was injured in a vehicle collision, call us. Our experienced accident lawyers can explain your rights and pursue a just settlement or jury award.
Contact Kellum Law Firm today – free case review and no obligation to retain our services following your free review.