Contributory negligence is a defense to a negligence claim. It is raised in cases where the plaintiff has, in some way, contributed to cause the damages that were incurred as a result of the defendant’s negligence. An example of an instance where contributory negligence can be alleged is that a pedestrian crosses a road carelessly and is hit by a driver who is also driving carelessly.
Contributory negligence is different from contribution. Contribution claims are brought by a defendant who wants another party to pay some or all of any monetary damages that are awarded to a plaintiff.
In the common law, contributory negligence was an absolute defense. If a defendant was able to raise the defense of contributory negligence, the defendant would be able to avoid being held liable. This caused problems when the plaintiff’s negligence was very minor. Contributory negligence prevented the plaintiff from recovering any damages at all.
Since contributory negligence frequently resulted in injustice, the majority of jurisdictions in the United States have modified the doctrine through either court decisions or legislation. Since then, most jurisdictions have adopted the term “comparative negligence.” In this field, the jury is able to reduce compensation awarded based on how much the plaintiff caused his or her own injuries.
While the majority of jurisdictions have adopted comparative negligence, the defense of contributory negligence can still be raised in:
If you have been hurt by someone’s negligent action, contact the Lake Geneva personal injury lawyers of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® at 1-800-275-1729 to determine your legal options.