Contributory Negligence as a Bar to Personal Injury Compensation in North Carolina


Recovering personal injury compensation in North Carolina is trickier than in nearly all other states. This is because North Carolina still follows the antiquated rule of contributory negligence, not the modern rule of comparative negligence.  For many personal injury claimants, contributory negligence will act as a complete bar to recovery of any compensation.  Insurance adjusters, however, sometimes assert the rule when it does not apply.  If your personal injury claim has been denied because the insurance company says you were contributorily negligent, it is important that you contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.  The rule may not apply to your case or there may be an exception available.  If you are interested in discussing your options, you may reach the personal injury civil litigation lawyers of Maginnis Law, PLLC at 919.480.8526.

Contributory negligence is a so-called “affirmative defense” which a defendant may plead in his answer to a lawsuit.  It acts as a complete bar to recovery when the plaintiff, by his or her own actions or omissions, contributed to his or her injuries.  Even if a jury finds the defendant 99% at fault and the plaintiff only 1% at fault, contributory negligence would prevent the plaintiff from recovering any personal injury compensation.  The burden, however, is on the defendant to prove that the plaintiff was, in fact, contributorily negligent.

Over the years, the North Carolina courts have eased the harshness of the contributory negligence rule.  There are a number of exceptions available to personal injury claimants.  For instance, if the defendant was grossly negligent, the plaintiff’s simple contributory negligence will not act as a bar.  Contributory negligence is also not a bar to intentional torts.  Most importantly, there is an exception available called the “Last Clear Chance Rule.”  This rule can sometimes act as a safe-haven for a plaintiff otherwise likely to lose because of the contributory negligence rule.

The personal injury attorneys of Maginnis Law, PLLC can help you fight the insurance company’s claims of contributory negligence.  We are familiar with the exceptions to the rule and are happy to discuss them with you during your free personal injury consultation.  The lawyers of Maginnis Law, PLLC accept all personal injury cases, including car accident, slip and fall, and wrongful death cases, on a contingency basis.  You pay no attorneys’ fees until you recover for your injuries.

The lawyers of Maginnis Law, PLLC accept personal injury cases from Cary, Apex, Clayton, Wake Forest, Morrisville, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, and the rest of the Triangle area.  Please contact the firm at 919.480.8526 to speak with a personal injury attorney or visit the firm’s website at  You can submit a new case inquiry by visiting our contact page.