My claim was denied based on “Contributory Negligence”.  What does that mean?

In North Carolina, when you are injured because someone else was negligent, the negligent person is liable for all of the consequences of your injuries.  A typical example is when you are hit by another vehicle on the road.  The person who crashes into you is responsible for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.  The car insurance company for the at fault driver will contact you and evaluate your claim.  Sometimes the insurance adjuster will deny your claim because of “contributory negligence”.  What does that mean?

How does Contributory Negligence work?

Contributory negligence is a North Carolina law that says that if you “contribute” to your own injuries, even if only a tiny bit, you cannot recover from the at fault driver.  This means that if you are careless or weren’t paying attention in any way that contributes to your injuries, you cannot recover anything at all. 

contributory negligenceHere is a good example:  if you are hit by another car that runs a red light, you would assume that the other driver who ran the red light is going to be responsible for your injuries.  However, if you were on your phone and/or weren’t paying attention, you could be accused of contributing to the crash and would not be able to recover for your injuries.  Like all things in the law, there are exceptions to this rule.  If an insurance adjuster denies your claim because of contributory negligence, don’t just walk away and assume they are right.  Talk to a lawyer.  Here’s why:

Contributory negligence is usually a question for a jury to consider, not a judge, and certainly not an insurance adjuster.  Also, contributory negligence cannot be held against you if the at fault driver was “grossly negligent”, or reckless, such as drinking and driving. Don’t rely on an insurance adjuster to tell you that, either. 

In short, don’t rely on what an insurance adjuster tells you about your case – if your case is denied because of contributory negligence, talk to a lawyer and make sure you understand your case.   An experienced personal injury attorney can help make sure that you’re not leaving any money on the table, and can seek to ensure that you’re properly compensated for your injuries.  At our firm, we offer free, no-pressure consultations to help clients know where they stand, and how to move forward. Contact us today if you have any questions.

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