Contributory Negligence in North Carolina

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While personal injury accidents such as car accidents commonly occur every day, it is not commonly understood how to determine who is at fault and responsible for covering the injuries you or your loved one has suffered. The answer depends on which state you are in and what approach they take when it comes to fault. 

If you or a loved one has been in a North Carolina car accident or have experienced a personal injury accident and are suffering subsequent injuries, it is important to understand the basics of how your state handles personal injury and car accident fault and damages. 

Pure Contributory Negligence

States take different approaches when it comes to the injured party recovering compensation for a personal injury or car accident. Some states allow the injured party to recover even if they were also negligent. In such cases, the injured party’s damages will be reduced according to their percentage of fault. However, North Carolina applies an entirely different and strict rule known as “pure contributory negligence.” 

North Carolina is among five states that apply this stringent approach which bars or prevents you from recovery if the jury determines you were partly at fault in causing your injuries. In other words, you are not permitted to obtain any financial recovery for your damages if the jury decides you share fault.

This strict standard can completely prevent you from receiving fair and just compensation for your injuries. This is especially troubling because, after an accident such as a car crash, there are common but serious injuries that can occur that can leave you in a serious financial deficit. 

For example, serious injuries such as whiplash or headaches could later develop into something far worse with a serious long-term impact on your daily life. If you don’t have the means to cover your medical bills for the proper treatments and procedures, then you cannot attain the medical treatment that you require to live a quality and healthy life. Perhaps you lost your job because you can no longer perform your duties due to your injuries. In that case, the impact is a long-term hit on your finances, as this limitation will also impact your future earnings. 

Seek an Experienced North Carolina Personal Injury and Car Accident Attorney

Having an experienced personal injury and car accident attorney by your side can make all the difference in your case. If the insurance company is claiming you were partly at fault you need o check with an experienced injury lawyer. Many times, insurance adjusters wrongfully deny claims on the basis of contributory negligence. 

Some of the most significant challenges of personal injury and car accident cases are proving who is at fault and showing your injuries. However, an experienced North Carolina injury attorney will gather and analyze critical evidence and facts to prove your injuries, communicate the strengths and weaknesses of your case to you, and fight against the insurance company’s frivolous allegations of contributory negligence. 

Moreover, the attorney will be sure to discuss the best legal options in your favor so that you can get the fair compensation you deserve. For example, if contributory negligence does apply to your situation, then your attorney may discuss exceptions such as the last clear chance doctrine with you as a defense you can raise so that you are not barred from obtaining the financial compensation that you deserve.


However, it is also important to note that in the event that contributory negligence does not apply and you are eligible to be compensated for your damages, then you will need to prove personal injuries and the suffering you have experienced as a result of the accident. 

Such damages include compensatory (economic and non-economic damages) and punitive damages. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages can compensate you and/or your family member injured in a car accident for actual economic loss. Importantly, economic damages do not include pain and suffering, which are non-economic damages and are described in more detail below.

  • Economic damages include medical expenses and bills from doctor visits, emergency room and hospital stays, procedures such as surgeries, and treatment such as physical therapy. It is important to prove medical expenses documentation such as bills, doctors’ reports, etc. 
  • Lost wages are another common type of damages in injury cases. Perhaps you are unable to work due to the injury—you can have the help of an attorney to calculate lost earnings now and in the future.
  • Property damage: this includes costs related to repairing or replacing your damaged vehicle due to the accident.

Non-Economic Damages 

On the other hand, non-economic damages may include:

  • physical pain and suffering
  • mental or emotional pain or anguish
  • loss of consortium following the death of a loved one, including the loss of companionship
  • disfigurement
  • physical impairment
  • inconvenience
  • loss of enjoyment of life because you can no longer enjoy activities that you once did

An attorney can best advise you on the best way to document such injuries, such as self-reports in the form of a daily journal and mental health doctor reports. 

Punitive Damages

Lastly, while punitive damages are rarely added on, they do exist and serve to deter or punish the defendant as opposed to compensate you. Punitive damages are limited to injuries where the defendant engages in egregious conduct and where specific aggravating factors exist, including malice, willful or wanton conduct, which NC law defines as the intentional disregard for the rights and safety of others, which the defendant should or should reasonably know would result in harm such as injury or damage. 

Contact a Wilmington Car Accident and Personal Injury Attorney

The aspects of liability and damages can be both confusing and complex. While you focus on healing from your injuries, the attorneys at Horton & Mendez can effectively guide you through the legal process and represent you against the insurance company. We are committed to ensuring you receive the just and fair compensation you deserve. We are prepared to stand by your side and draw on our extensive experience in personal injury and car accident law to help you hold the other party responsible for your injuries. The best way to get started is to contact us for a free, confidential consultation today at (910) 490-4303.

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