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Contributory Negligence — How It Can Affect You

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Does it matter that North Carolina is one of only four states in our country that supports contributory negligence? What kind of legal jargon is that and what does it mean to you and me?

Under current NC law, you cannot get any insurance benefit or claim any compensation as a result of an accident if you are the least bit at fault. If, for example, another driver is barrelling down the road and slams into your car,and you didn’t have your turn signal on at the stop sign. Obviously, whether or not your turn signal was on would not have affected if the speeding driver was going to hit your vehicle, but an insurance company may argue that you were not following the law, and they could suspend any claim you would file. In North Carolina contributory negligence begins when you are only 1% at fault, and this is not fair. It is merely a way for insurance companies to get out of paying claims.

Considering that 46 states do not endorse contributory negligence, it’s high time North Carolina got with the program. The law in those states is comparative fault, which wisely divides the responsibility among those involved in the accident, based on how much each person was at fault. This allows for a balance of responsibility and parties pay or are compensated based on the degree of involvement and fault of each participant.

Attorneys at Oxner + Permar are part of NC Advocates for Justice, and we support the bill that’s currently before the Senate to change the law in North Carolina. Our state needs to do away with contributory negligence. It’s way past time that this unfair practice is changed.

This article was written by Chip Permar