What is Negligence?
Negligence occurs when one person does not exercise reasonable care in their conduct, which results in direct harm to other people. Individuals, corporations, and even governments can act negligently. The Charlotte personal injury lawyers at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys regularly represent victims of negligence who have suffered harm at the hands of others.
Unlike the majority of states, North Carolina uses a legal defense known as “pure contributory negligence,” which makes obtaining compensation from an at-fault party considerably more difficult than it would be in many other states.
North Carolina’s Contributive Negligence Law
North Carolina is one of five jurisdictions left in the United States that adhere to the doctrine of contributory negligence. Though not codified in any state laws, the traditional rule of contributory negligence in North Carolina is that if you were even one percent responsible for your own injuries, you cannot recover compensation from the party who was 99 percent at fault.
However, there are some notable exceptions to negligence laws in NC, including:
Last Clear Chance Doctrine
The person who had the “last clear chance” to avoid the accident is held more responsible in court for the situation, even if the injured person was contributorily negligent. For example, say a pedestrian tries to cross a street illegally, and a driver sees them. The driver does not hit the brakes, and strikes the pedestrian. In this scenario, the driver would have had the last clear chance to avoid the accident, even though the pedestrian was negligent in crossing when they did. The driver could have prevented the collision but didn’t, and they would be the party held liable for the pedestrian’s injuries.
Under this concept, if another party caused your injuries through wanton or willful conduct, they will be held liable regardless of your contribution to your injuries. For example, if a driver operated their vehicle with a blood alcohol content that was twice the legal limit and crashed into you while you were missing a rear taillight, they would be held liable for your compensatory damages.
Burden of Proof
If your personal injury case goes to trial, you must prove that the defendant’s actions caused your injuries. If the jury is convinced that you do not share some responsibility for the accident, you can still recover compensation.
In 2009, North Carolina legislators considered adopting the Uniform Apportionment of Tort Responsibility Act, which would have switched the state to a comparative negligence standard. In other jurisdictions, comparative negligence allows you to recover compensation from the other party involved in the accident, minus the fault that the court deems you are responsible for your injuries.
For example, if a jury decides you are 10 percent at fault for walking along the wrong side of the road, but a driver who hits you is 90 percent responsible, you would be awarded an amount commensurate with the other party being 90 percent at fault.
Unfortunately, the Act did not pass, however, contributive negligence is continually being challenged in North Carolina.
Can a Person File a Claim Even if They are Unsure of Fault?
North Carolina does not automatically bar a person from filing an insurance claim or lawsuit if they may be to blame for their injuries. It is up to a jury to decide whether a plaintiff is barred from recovery, but an experienced trial attorney from Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys will be able to evaluate a claim beforehand to see if it is likely to succeed.
Contact Our Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyers to Learn More
If you are injured in an accident in Charlotte through another person’s fault, you may be able to recover compensation from that party’s insurance policy, but proving negligence in North Carolina is no easy task. At Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we will investigate your case, and aggressively fight for you to obtain the compensation you deserve. Call our Charlotte personal injury at (980) 237-4579, or reach out through our online contact form to schedule a case evaluation.