May 8, 2010

How States With Contributory Negligence Laws Affect Drivers

All members of society have a responsibility to take the utmost care to keep themselves safe from harm. Usually, no one is going to purposely jump off a bridge or run through traffic on a busy highway. However, this being said, there are those who are negligent and inadvertently become injured, partially or fully as a result of their actions. This is referred to as contributory negligence. For example, you are walking along a sidewalk and then decide to cross the street. So, you run out from in between two parked cars and into oncoming traffic. The driver cannot stop, he hits you, and now you have a pile of medical bills to pay as a result. Your actions directly contributed to your injuries; and thus, the driver cannot actually be blamed for all of your injuries and be responsible for your medical bills.

When cases like this are brought forward to court, the Contributory Negligence Law comes into effect. If we look at the above example, the judge will take the actions of both the driver and the pedestrian into consideration. Was the driver speeding or distracted when the accident happened? For the sake of argument, let’s say he wasn’t. Now, onto the pedestrian; was he paying attention when he crossed the street? Did he use the crosswalk or dart out from behind an obstacle that the driver had no way of seeing? If you recall, this is exactly what happened. So, in this case, the judge would rule that the pedestrian was negligent and his actions caused his injuries. Therefore, the judge would take all of this into account and determine if a reward is justified and how much of the award should actually be paid out. In some cases, it is deemed that the driver is not responsible for paying any medical bills incurred.

Hitting a pedestrian is a very serious charge and can certainly affect a driver’s auto insurance policy. This blemish will stay on your record for as long as six years and can negatively affect your premiums. However, if contributory negligence is present, then the driver may not be deemed at fault. The accident may still show on their auto insurance policy and driving record, but not as an at-fault collision.

Most states now use comparative negligence as, depending on the circumstances, contributory negligence can be unfair. The damages are totaled and the amount payable may be reduced to reflect the portion that the driver and negligent party is forced to pay.

Currently, there are only 5 states that have adapted Contributory Negligence Laws. These states include Alabama, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.