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Contributory Negligence in North Carolina Personal Injury Claims

A key statistic from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals some surprising information regarding personal injury accidents in North Carolina and throughout the US. Unintentional falls, being struck by an object, and motor vehicle crashes are the top reasons that individuals seek emergency medical treatment. If you’re one of them, you may already be aware that you may be entitled to seek compensation for your losses as a victim.

However, what you may not know is that one key legal concept could have harsh implications for your claim. A North Carolina personal injury lawyer can explain the rule of contributory negligence in more detail, but an overview may be informative.

Basic Concepts in a Personal Injury Claim: Whether you’re hurt in a motor vehicle collision, slip and fall incident, or another accident, your claim is usually based upon the legal concept of negligence. You can recover compensation if you can prove four essential elements:

  1. The responsible party had a duty to exercise reasonable care, so as to not cause a risk of harm to others;
  2. That person or entity breached the duty of care by engaging in careless or reckless conduct;
  3. The breach of duty was a direct cause of the accident in which you were injured; and,
  4. You suffered harm because of your injuries.

In addition, though it’s not an element of a negligence case, there’s another requirement: You must file a lawsuit according to North Carolina’s statute of limitations, which provides you three years from the date of the accident in which you were injured.

The Rule of Contributory Negligence: Even if you can successfully prove the four elements described above, one legal concept can affect your right to recover monetary damages. If you were at fault in the accident, even just slightly, you are completely barred from obtaining any compensation for your losses. There are only a handful of US states that follow this rule of contributory negligence, as it’s considered quite harsh. Still, it’s the law in North Carolina, so you must have a solid legal strategy for overcoming this potential challenge.

Contributory Negligence Examples: Some hypothetical scenarios may help you understand how this rule functions:

  • A driver was speeding and ran through a red light before striking your vehicle. If you were also violating one of North Carolina’s Rules of the Road, such as by failing to properly change lanes in traffic, you may not recover any damages.
  • You were shopping and wanted to check out some items on a shelf that was not secured. Where the store owner posts a sign or erects a barricade about this dangerous condition, you cannot recover damages for your injuries.

Trust a North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney to Help Overcome Challenges

If you were hurt in an accident that was someone else’s fault, it’s important to retain a lawyer who knows how to fight claims of contributory negligence. Our team at Howard, Stallings, From, Atkins, Angell & Davis, P.A. can assist with your case, so please contact us to learn more. We can schedule a consultation to meet with you at our offices in Raleigh, New Bern, or Morehead City, NC.

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