North Carolina is one of only 4 states that still allows pure contributory negligence. This means you cannot recover damages if you contributed in any way to causing your injuries. For example, if you were injured and deemed only 5% at fault you would recover nothing. As you can imagine, this leads to grossly unfair outcomes where personal injury victims are left paying expensive medical bills that aren’t completely their fault. In some cases, people even lose a loved one and have no legal avenue to hold the majority at fault party accountable.
Senate Bill 477, The Victims Fair Treatment Act would end the practice of contributory negligence. The proposed bill would introduce comparative negligence. The overwhelming majority of states apply comparative negligence. Under this fairer standard, an injured person’s recovery is discounted per their percentage of fault. For example, if an injured person is 10% at fault, their recovery is discounted 10%. Instead of being completely barred from legal recovery, this standard gives injured people a fighting chance against the insurance companies.
Our attorneys used to represent insurance companies, we saw how insurance adjusters weaponized contributory negligence against injured people. If an insurance adjuster believed there was any basis for contributory negligence they would usually deny a claim. This means they would completely refuse to even pay the injured person’s medical bills. For example, if somebody ran a red light and hit you the insurance company could deny your claim on the basis that you did not look both ways before entering the green light intersection. Doesn’t green mean go? We saw this play out time and time again.
There are too many unfair stories like this that take place throughout North Carolina. Our laws should not help insurance companies at the expense of injured people. It is time for our legislature to change this out dated law. Click here to read more about the Victims Fair Treatment Act and ask your representative to end contributory negligence once and for all.