While contributory negligence isn’t a new or renewed law in North Carolina, it’s a law that everyone should be aware of when visiting, driving through, or moving to the state.
North Carolina is one of the rare states in the country that has contributory negligence in place as opposed to the comparative negligence law. What this means for drivers is that, if you’re in a car wreck and you’re even one percent at-fault, you can’t file for compensation.
Most states have a comparative negligence law, which allows drivers to seek compensation for their injuries while also paying for the percentage of fault they caused. While some states set a limit where drivers must be less than 50 percent at-fault to seek compensation, there are less than five states that ban at-fault drivers from obtaining compensation completely.
Exceptions to Contributory Negligence
North Carolina’s system can seem pretty unfair because a driver may be one percent at-fault for a wreck while the other driver was 99 percent at-fault, and yet they won’t be able to obtain compensation because of this one percent. Thankfully, there are some exceptions to the contributory negligence law.
The “last clear chance” doctrine allows the plaintiff to file for compensation if they can prove that the defendant was clearly negligent and the plaintiff couldn’t escape the injury without reasonable care.
The proximate cause doctrine also allows the plaintiff to obtain compensation if the plaintiff’s negligence doesn’t meet the level of proximate cause for their injury. Lastly, the gross negligence doctrine can be an exception to contributory negligence if the defendant’s negligence was willful.
Examples of Exceptions
There are numerous ways in which a plaintiff can get around contributory negligence, depending on the situation. For example, a woman in Charlotte was hit by a drunk driver at an intersection. She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt during the wreck, which made her partially at fault for her injuries.
A Charlotte injury attorney knew that she deserved compensation even though she was partially at-fault. She was able to use the gross negligence doctrine as an exception to the contributory negligence law, because the drunk driver willfully caused her harm.
Depending on the circumstances, partial fault isn’t always a deciding factor for whether you can file a lawsuit, even in states like North Carolina. Knowing the law, and the exceptions to the law, can be crucial so when you get in a sticky situation, you’ll know how to get out of it.