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What is Contributory Negligence?

Roanoke Rapids, NC |
Attorney answers 2


As a NC personal injury attorney with more than 15 years of experience, I feel qualified to answer your question.

North Carolina is one of the few remaining contributory negligence states in the country. This can have a great impact on your NC personal injury claim. As an example, let’s say you are dealing with a personal injury that occurs because of a car accident. Under contributory negligence, if an insurance company can prove you contributed to the car accident in any way by not exercising reasonable care under the circumstances, you may be completely barred from obtaining compensation for your personal injury claim. Contributory negligence can be contrasted with the system of comparative fault used in most other states. Under comparative fault, damage payments are allocated in proportion to each party’s responsibility for causing the car accident, although typically the other vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, etc.) must be more than 50% at fault before a recovery is permitted.

The harsh results brought about by a finding of contributory negligence in NC provide insight into why insurance companies work hard to get people to admit that they had a role – minor though it might be – in causing their own personal injuries in NC. Remember, insurance adjusters are trained professionals who are employed to negotiate favorably for the insurance company. When they interview you, they could be seeking information that may allow their company to reduce or deny your right to recover. For that reason, in my experience, it is important not to sign anything or give any kind of statement to the insurance company without first speaking with an NC personal injury attorney who may be able to advise you.

Disclaimer: Communication via this website does not establish an attorney-client relationship, or constitute legal advice, nor can we guarantee the communication to be confidential. Any answer posted is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation and should not be relied upon to take, or refrain from taking, any action. You should seek proper legal advice given by an attorney who has reviewed the facts of your specific case.

Eric Haase, Attorney
Law Offices of James Scott Farrin
280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, North Carolina 27701


I'm impressed with attorney Haas' answer. I would emphasize the comment about insurance companies looking for anything at all to use to blame an otherwise faultless motor vehicle operator. They will ask questions about listening to the radio, the CD, using the cell phone, drinking coffee, having an animal in the car, carrying on a conversation with a passenger, watching children in the back seat, being distracted from traffic by observing storefronts or other scenery, and a myriad of other scenarios.

Never give a statement to a claims adjuster without reviewing the facts with an attorney. Personal injury attorneys nearly always give a free initial consultation.

The insurance industry’s own statistics indicate that once an attorney becomes involved, the value of any claim at least doubles.

Put those two facts together and it is in your best interest to retain experienced legal counsel at your earliest possible convenience.

I truly wish you the best.

If you find my answer helpful, please click the ‘thumbs-up’ tab below. Thank you.

This answer is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies.

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