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What is Contributory Negligence?

Written by Award-Winning Lawyer Lawrence S. Lapidus

Receiving fair and reasonable settlement for an accident can be tricky. Some people believe that if they sustain injuries or property damages because of the negligence of another individual or company, they’ll quickly and easily get their expenses covered. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Insurance company adjusters of the at-fault driver will use every tactic they can to avoid a lawsuit.  This pushback often means claiming contributory negligence, a legal  rule that would reduce or completely eliminate the possibility of a settlement.  

How Does Contributory Negligence Work?

Contributory negligence is a very harsh legal rule that has been abolished in many states.  However, it is still in place throughout the D.C. Met Region.  (Sometimes  now  called the “DMV”  in news broadcasts) . This rule means that even if you, as the plaintiff are as little as 1% responsible for the accident, you will  not receive a settlement for the damages and/or injuries or may receive a smaller settlement and the case will be lost in court.

For example,  if a pedestrian who is crossing a street outside of a marked crosswalk is injured by a speeding driver, the pedestrian will likely not be able to either settle the claim or recover damages in court because crossing a roadway is considered to be “contributorily negligent.” Similarly, in Fall & Injury cases, if a defect or obstruction could easily have been seen by the victim, that case may never be settled or win in court.   There are ways to defeat this harsh rule, but only an experienced attorney who is willing to fight for his client will be able to avoid almost certain defeat.

Examples of Contributory Negligence Include:

  • Left-hand turns
  • Failing to use a crosswalk or crossing on red across any roadway as a pedestrian
  • Failing to yield the right of way or ignoring a stop sign or a red light;
  • Failing to anticipate and avoid an obvious danger
  • Failing to remove ice or snow from a windshield when driving

 It is important to note: there are many other circumstances that can involve contributory negligence not listed above.

How Your Attorney Can Fight Contributory Negligence

If the facts show that a vehicle had a “Last Clear Chance” to avoid an accident, contributory negligence can be negated.  But there must be eyewitnesses and other corroborating evidence to establish that such an opportunity was present and ignored by the at-fault driver. In Fall & injury cases,  if the cause of the fall  was hidden and was such that a reasonably prudent person could not have observed it in sufficient time to avoid the defect, a claim of contributory negligence can be avoided.

Maryland & DC Personal Injury Lawyer

The attorneys at The Lapidus Law Firm have one goal: to obtain a fair and reasonable settlement for all damages, including lost wages, future wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and much more. We’re experienced, patient, and willing to work as long and hard as needed to help you. If you are in the DC give us a call at (202) 785-5111 or if you are in Maryland, call us at (301) 605-4296. 

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