Comparative vs. Contributory Negligence

State negligence laws play a significant role when injured individuals pursue personal injury lawsuits. While some states have enacted comparative negligence laws to offer forgiveness for liable parties that have contributed partial fault to an accident, other states are strict with their contributory negligence policies. Knowing which law your state recognizes can be the deciding factor in whether you’re allowed to file a claim and recover a settlement for your injuries.

Understanding Comparative Negligence

Most states around the country have a comparative negligence law in place. California is one state that has a pure comparative negligence law, meaning you can file a personal injury lawsuit against a liable party in your wreck regardless of whether you were 10 percent at fault for the wreck or 60 percent at fault for the wreck. In California, you can sue the other party for damages and they can sue you.

South Carolina is a state that recognizes modified comparative negligence. In South Carolina, you can file a claim for compensation after an accident as long as you were less than 51 percent at fault for causing the wreck. When you sue for compensation in a state that recognizes any form of comparative negligence, your percentage of fault will be taken out of your settlement. For example, if you’re found to be 30 percent at fault and your settlement is $100,000, you’ll receive $70,000.

Other states that recognize modified comparative negligence may change the law slightly and allow injured victims to file claims as long as they’re less than 50 percent at fault. Georgia is an example where the law changes by one percent. 

How Contributory Negligence Differs

There are a handful of states throughout the country that recognize contributory negligence. North Carolina is one of these states. A Charlotte personal injury lawyer explains that “contributory negligence allows for zero forgiveness. If an injured victim contributed any percentage of fault to an accident, they aren’t allowed to file a lawsuit against the other liable party in the wreck.”

There have been many arguments against contributory negligence laws because these laws prevent injured victims from seeking the settlements they deserve. While there are exceptions to contributory negligence in each state, the law still makes it hard to move forward with a claim.

Hopefully, these laws will become more lenient, but for now, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Maryland, and the District of Columbia remain unchanged in their policies.