What is Contributory Negligence?
When a person is injured in Virginia because someone is negligent (for example, a driver runs a stop sign and causes an accident), the law in Virginia also looks to see if the injured person was “contributorily negligent.” Virginia is one of a handful of states that has “pure contributory negligence.” Other states joining Virginia with a pure contributory negligence rule are Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland and North Carolina. Under this rule, a plaintiff found by a judge or jury to be just a small percent at fault for contributing to an accident will recover nothing, even though the defendant is mainly the one at fault. All of the other states instead have some version of “comparative negligence.”
What does this mean?
It means that if you are driving in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, North Carolina and Alabama and you are in an accident and are found to be partly at fault (for example, you are exceeding the speed limit and the excess speed contributed to the accident), even though the other person was mainly at fault, you will not recover anything.
What is an example?
A pedestrian crosses the road and is hit by a driver who is speeding and not paying attention because he is texting. But the pedestrian is not at a crosswalk and a witness testifies the pedestrian should have seen the car coming before crossing. Since the pedestrian also has contributed to the accident, he or she may be barred from complete and full recovery of damages from the driver (or their insurer) because the accident was not likely to occur if the pedestrian had used a crosswalk or had kept a proper lookout.
How does that compare to Comparative Negligence?
In comparative negligence states, the injured person who was contributorily negligent is not completely barred from recovery. Instead in those states, the judge or jury can compare the level of negligence. For example, if the pedestrian who failed to keep a good lookout is found by a judge or jury to have contributed by 40%, that same 40% will be deducted or offset from any recovery received. But that is not the case in Virginia – so be sure to keep a good lookout and drive safely at all times!
This article provides general information only. For more details please be sure to contact an attorney. Locke & Quinn provides services for all types of personal injury. Article provided by Colleen M. Quinn, Esq. at https://plus.google.com/+LockeQuinnColleenMQuinnRichmond/about.