Contributory Negligence in North Carolina and Virginia

In some car accident cases it’s clear that another party is fully, 100% responsible for the accident. For example, the other driver was speeding and rear-ended your car because they couldn’t stop in time. That’s 100% liability.

There are other times when you may be partly at fault. Both North Carolina and Virginia and most states determine the percentage of your fault – 1%, 10%, 20%, etc.

Negligence in North Carolina and Virginia

In North Carolina and Virginia, if you’re even 1% at fault you can’t recover – anything. If you’re 1% at fault and the damages are $100,000 you don’t get 99% – you get 0. The defendant only needs to show you were slightly at fault to win the case.

There are two exceptions:

  • Wanton misconduct – If you can show the actions of defendant were deliberate, then the defendant can’t use your contributory negligence
  • Last clear chance – If you can show the defendant had a “last clear chance” to avoid the accident (even after your contributory negligence) then the defendant loses.

Most other states

Most states use the doctrine of comparative negligence. There are three types of comparative negligence

  • Pure comparative negligence – If the defendant has any fault they will be liable for their percentage. If you’re 90% at fault and the defendant is 10% at fault – you get 10% of any damage award.
  • Modified comparative negligence (50%) – if the defendant can show you were at least 50% responsible, the plaintiff loses. If both sides are equally at fault, the plaintiff gets 0
  • Modified comparative negligence (51%) – here the defendant has to show the plaintiff was the one mostly at fault. If both sides are equally at fault, the plaintiff gets 50%

When an accident happens it can be brought in the state where the accident happened or in the state where the driver or owner lives. If you’re in an accident in North Carolina or Virginia and you’re partially fault, a skilled car accident lawyer will try to bring your claim in a state that has comparative negligence – a state where your partial fault won’t eliminate your claim.