What is Contributory Negligence?

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Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine that assigns blame to a partially responsible plaintiff for their own injury. It can result in the plaintiff receiving no damages or only a reduced amount of damages. The contributory negligence doctrine is used as a defense by defendants in civil lawsuits.

If you’ve been injured in an accident through no fault of your own, contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. Our personal injury lawyers have a proven track record of success in helping clients obtain the maximum compensation possible for injuries they have suffered due to the negligence of others. Our firm has consistently demonstrated we have the expertise needed to help our clients see that justice is served.

Overview of Negligence in Accident or Injury Claims

Negligence is a legal theory used to hold people and organizations accountable for their carelessness. Under the doctrine of negligence, an individual has a duty to act as a reasonable person. If a person or organization owed you a duty of care and breached that duty, causing you injuries, they may be liable to pay you damages.

What is Contributory Negligence?, practical law, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.

There are four elements of negligence:

  1. Duty of care: The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  2. Breach of duty: The defendant breached their duty of care.
  3. Causation: The breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
  4. Damages: The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of their injuries.

If all four elements are present, the plaintiff may be able to recover damages from the defendant. However, there are a few defenses that the defendant may raise, including contributory negligence and comparative negligence.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that allows plaintiffs to recover damages even if they are partially at fault for their own injuries.

Pure Comparative Negligence

In states with pure comparative fault laws, plaintiffs can recover damages even if they are 99 percent at fault for their injuries. The damages awarded will be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. So, if a plaintiff is deemed 20 percent responsible for their injuries, they would only be able to recover 80 percent of the total damages.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Most states have adopted some form of modified comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, plaintiffs can only recover damages if they are less than 50 percent or, in some cases, less than 51 percent at fault for their injuries. If a plaintiff is 50 percent or more at fault, they will be barred from recovering any damages.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is a legal standard that bars an injured plaintiff from recovering damages from the defendant if they contributed to their injury. In a contributory negligence state, even if a plaintiff is only 1% at fault for an accident that left them with a serious injury, they may not be successful in a claim against another party for damages.

Contributory Negligence in Washington DC Car Accident Claims

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 If you are an injured party in an accident involving only cars in Washington, D.C., and you are 1% negligent, and your negligence contributed to the cause of the collision, you will not be able to recover for your injuries or damages. In other words, if both parties contributed to causing an accident, even if one party only shares a small percentage of fault, neither party will be able to recover for their damages.

However, if you are a pedestrian, bicyclist, or another vulnerable user, you could be up to 50% negligent and still recover 100% of your damages.

No-Fault Insurance Claims for Car Accidents

In most states, the person at fault for an accident is responsible for paying the damages. If you’re in an accident caused by another driver, their liability insurance will be responsible for paying your claim.

However, some states have a “no-fault” system.” Each driver’s insurance company will pay for their own damages, regardless of who is at fault.

Other Personal Injury Cases Subject to Contributory Negligence Laws

Contributory negligence can apply to many personal injuries and civil tort cases:

If you suffered injuries because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, it is important to work with an attorney who understands contributory negligence and how it could affect your case.

Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer in Washington DC

For more than 50 years, the Washington DC personal injury lawyers of Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. have successfully represented individuals and families who have been injured or lost loved ones due to someone else’s negligence.  Here is a small sample of some of our successful verdicts and settlements: 

  • $15 million for a woman who was permanently paralyzed from the neck down due to being struck by a stray bullet.
  • $6 million on behalf of a man who suffered a brain injury due to a rear-end collision.
  • $5 million medical malpractice settlement on behalf of a 14-year-old client who suffered a severe brain injury due to a doctor’s inappropriate use of a chemical product.
  • $4.8 million on behalf of a severely injured man when his motorcycle struck a trailer being pulled by a minivan.
  • $4.5 million for a woman who was seriously injured in a pedestrian accident after being struck from behind by a transit bus in a crosswalk.

See additional examples of our case victories and settlements on our “Case Results” page.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today

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If you are looking for the highest level of representation available for your personal injury case, turn to Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. Our firm has helped clients recover more than $500 million in compensation, and we have more than 100 years of combined experience. All of our partners are recognized by Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers®, and our firm includes three past presidents of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

We work to help our clients obtain fair settlement offers to compensate them for the injuries they’ve suffered, but our attorneys are extremely well-equipped to go to trial if needed. Call (202) 659-8600  or contact us online to get the proven legal representation you deserve.

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