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How to Avoid Liability Under The Doctrine of Contributory Negligence

Over the past week, North Carolina has been shocked with a wave of icy cold weather. Icy weather in a southern state brings with it long lines at the grocery store, school closures, road closures, and of course, a lot of automobile accidents. With the dangerous traffic conditions it’s important to drive even more cautiously than usual in order to avoid an accident and liability under North Carolina’s contributory negligence law.

North Carolina is one of only five states that still follow the doctrine of contributory negligence. This means that if you are injured in a car accident, if you contributed to the accident even in the slightest way, you could be completely denied compensation!

To establish contributory negligence, the defendant must show that (1) the plaintiff was negligent, and (2) the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the accident.

(1) The defendant can show that the plaintiff was negligent by showing that the plaintiff was acting in a certain way at the time of the accident such as speeding, following too closely, riding with a drunk driver, jaywalking, and texting while driving.

(2) Once the plaintiff’s negligent action has been established, the defendant must prove that the negligent action contributed to the accident. Even if the plaintiff only contributed in the slightest way to the accident, only 1%, it will be sufficient to show contribution.

So, in order to be assured that you will not be denied compensation if you are involved in an accident – make sure you are not driving negligently! How do you do that? Well, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t text and drive: Texting while driving may cause you to look down for one split second and end up involved in an accident that would have otherwise been avoidable had you been looking up at the road. Even if the other driver caused the accident, you may be barred recovery if you were on the phone at the time of the accident.

  • Follow the speed limit: Make sure you are always maintaining the posted speed limit. Many people consider it common to go only 10mph over the posted speed limit; however, some cases have even applied the contributory negligence doctrine to a driver going only 5mph over the speed limit!

  • Avoid driving too close/sudden stopping: Has anyone ever told you, “if a driver is rear-ended, it is their fault not yours?” That is not always the case. For example, say you are either following too closely or you are distracted, you look up and the car ahead of you is stopped, you slam on your breaks; you avoid hitting them, but instead, you are rear-ended. Since you were following too close to the car in front of you, which forced you to slam on your breaks, your negligence played a part in the collision.

Remember, to avoid the doctrine of contributory negligence, exercise even more caution while driving in rain, sleet, or snow.

If you have been involved in an automobile accident or would like more information on the doctrine of contributory negligence, contact an attorney at Stiles Law. 704-719-2589.

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