North Carolina Contributory Negligence Example
In almost every North Carolina personal injury case there are three possible jury questions:
1. Has the Plaintiff proved the defendant acted negligently;
2. Has the Defendant proved that the Plaintiff contributed, in any way, to causing their own injury; and
3. What, if any, amount is Plaintiff entitled to for damages.
It is the second question that we are going to examine in this article. North Carolina has a theory of law known as contributory negligence. In essence, it is defined as negligence on the part of the Plaintiff (the injured party) which may have played some part in causing the incident which resulted in the injury complained of.
A common example of this is seen in when examining North Carolina auto accidents. For example, take two cars, Car A and Car B. Car A is driving straight approaching an intersection. The speed limit is 35 mph but the Car is going 47mph. Car A does not have a stop sign.
Car B is approaching the same intersection from the side street. Car B has the stop sign but does not stop. Car B runs the stop sign and enters the intersection thereby failing to yield the right of way to Car A. A collision occurs between Car A and Car B.
Factual Analysis of Car B
Now, in our example most people would agree that Car B, by running the stop sign, was the major cause of the car accident. In negligence terms it can be argued that a reasonable person who has control of their car would stop when they get to a stop sign. Therefore the driver of Car B would be negligent by failing to come to a complete stop at the stop sign. Further, the driver of Car B would be negligent in failing to yield the right of way to Car A.
Factual Analysis of Car A
In our example it is a fact that Car A was speeding. As such, it can be argued that maybe if Car A wasn’t speeding they could have avoided the wreck, slowed done before hand, etc. In terms of negligence, a reasonable person approaching an intersection would be on the lookout for another car. Further, while it can be argued that the average person does exceed the speed limit as a matter of course it becomes a jury question whether exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph is reasonable or negligent.
Most people would agree that in our example the main cause of the wreck was Car B’s failing to stop at the stop sign. As such, maybe Car B is 95% – 99% negligent. Concurrently, Car A may be negligent as well for its excessive speed, maybe 1% – 5% negligent.
Under North Carolina law, if the driver of Car A is even just 1% negligent (and that negligence was a proximate cause in the accident), they are unable to recover money damages.
While the law of contributory negligence is very strict, there are ways around it. Over the years there have been thousands of cases dealing with different facets of contributory negligence. This is why it is important to discuss your case with a skilled Charlotte personal injury lawyer at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC. Our lawyers know what facts to look out for to help your case. Further, our lawyers have access to the latest technology to examine up to the minute changes in the law.