According to the North Carolina DMV, there were 276,026 car crashes in the State in 2021 alone. Each year many North Carolina residents must deal with the expensive aftermath of a car accident. These accidents often involve complicated situations where multiple drivers share responsibility.
North Carolina drivers may wonder how partial fault impacts their ability to receive compensation after an accident. The answer lies in understanding North Carolina’s strict contributory negligence rule.
Definition of contributory negligence
North Carolina follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, which stands as one of the most stringent negligence laws in the country.
Contributory negligence means that if you contribute in any way to the accident, even if your contribution was minor and the other party was primarily at fault, you cannot recover damages. This rule is in stark contrast to the comparative negligence rule followed by many other states, where you can recover damages even if you are partially at fault, though your recovery gets reduced by your percentage of fault.
Impact of contributory negligence on compensation
In practical terms, the contributory negligence rule can bar a driver from recovering damages if they were even 1% at fault for the accident. This stringent rule often leads to harsh outcomes. For example, if another driver runs a red light and hits you, but you were slightly speeding, laws may bar you from recovering any damages because your speeding counts as contributory negligence.
Exceptions to the rule
There are a few exceptions to the contributory negligence rule, including the “last clear chance” doctrine and cases involving gross negligence or willful or wanton conduct. The last clear chance doctrine states that if the defendant had the last opportunity to avoid the accident, then the plaintiff may still recover damages, despite their contributory negligence.
Knowledge of these rules can go a long way in preparing you in case of an unfortunate accident. Remember, every accident is unique, and the application of these rules can vary depending on the specific circumstances.