The concept of contributory negligence has its roots in English Common Law, which pre-dates the Middle Ages. Contributory negligence is intended to reduce the number of fraudulent personal injury claims that come to court and to discourage reckless conduct that could lead to a negligence claim. Considered antiquated by many legislatures, in the United States only Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. have contributory negligence statutes on the books.
Contributory Negligence in Court
Unlike the more lenient standards of comparative negligence, the statutes of contributory negligence state that if the plaintiff responsible for his or her injury in even the smallest degree—even only 1% responsible—then he or she will not receive any sort of settlement from the defendant.
Although contributory negligence may seem cut-and-dried, there are many factors that can make a personal injury case in one of the states or in the District that have these statutes on the books very complicated. Conduct that the court may consider to be contributory on the part of the plaintiff may vary from one jurisdiction to the next.
If you live in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia or Washington, D.C. and are involved in a personal injury case, contacting an attorney who has experience with contributory negligence in your area is essential.