Inherent Unfairness of "Contributory Negligence"

If you are ever in a car wreck, there are three things we all expect to happen:

  1. That law enforcement and emergency services will arrive on the scene quickly;
  2. That you will receive the medical care you need to recover as fully as possible; and
  3. That the justice system will treat you fairly when it comes to recovering damages.

In 46 states, those expectations are likely to be met.  But not in our state. North Carolina maintains an antiquated and inherently unfair law (held over from old common law doctrine from England) called “contributory negligence.”

Contributory Negligence, or “Contrib” means that if you are in a car wreck, you must be completely free from fault in order to be able to make any recovery in a personal injury case. If the person who hit your car was 99% at fault–driving drunk, without a license, while texting–you cannot win a court case if you were even 1% at fault. You’ll get zip, zilch, nada. And it is extremely difficult to prove 100% of anything.

Most other states follow the law of “Comparative Fault,” which allows people to recover damages from those most responsible for causing a wreck. In the case of the texting drunk driver without a license, that person would easily be found to be responsible… and you would be able to recover damages.


Currently, there is a bill pending in the North Carolina legislature designed to change our system to a Comparative Fault system. The bipartisan House Bill HB 813 aims to move North Carolina into a modern era of fairness. But insurance lobbyists are trying to stop this change by distorting the facts. They say that premiums will go up… but that’s not what has been found in the 46 states that already have Comparative Fault–their insurance rates actually slow down. The insurance lobbyists are resorting to shameful scare tactics.

HensonFuerst encourages you to visit to learn more.

Ask your representatives to support fairness by supporting HB 813. Ask them to be strong and to stand up against the lobbyists. Click here for a list of North Carolina representatives.

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