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What do the defenses of contributory negligence and assumption of the risk mean and why do we care?

The District of Columba, Maryland Virginia are virtually the only three jurisdictions in the entire country that have a system of civil law called " Absolute Fault ". The other states have "Comparative Fault" systems. An "Absolute Fault" system requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was completely, 100%, at fault for causing the accident and the injuries claimed. If the Plaintiff caused or contributed to the accident, in any way, to any degree, then the Plaintiff cannot collect. Contributory negligence means that the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care to protect themselves from injury. In an "Absolute Fault" jurisdiction, if the plaintiff was careless, to any degree, even if the Defendant was negligent, then the plaintiff cannot recover. For instance, if a pedestrian was walking outside of the crosswalk and was struck by an automobile being driven by an inattentive driver, the pedestrian will be unlikely to recover because the pedestrian, like the inattentive driver of the automobile, did not act in a careful, prudent way by crossing at the corner, at the crosswalk , on a green or walk signal. Assumption of the risk is different than contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is a concept that means that you were unintentionally careless and that a reasonable person would have been more careful to protect themselves. When you assume the risk, you are aware of the danger and confront it anyway. Even if the defendant was negligent, if you undertake a danger knowing there is a risk of harm, you cannot recover for your injury despite the defendant's negligence. For instance, if you go to a hockey or baseball game and get hit by a puck or ball, you "assumed the risk" if that taking place and you cannot recover for any injuries sustained.

by Ira Sherman