What if you were in an accident resulting in very serious injury and you have over $100,000.00 in medical bills? Let’s just say you were shopping in a grocery store and walking through the vegetable aisle. You slipped on a puddle of unidentified liquid that had leaked onto the tile floor.
After hip surgery and a prolonged hospital stay, you’ve ended up with a broken hip and an empty pocketbook. In North Carolina, it would be very difficult for you to collect for your injuries. Your next question should be, “Why not?” I slipped and fell through no fault of my own and now I can’t recover for my hip surgery? That doesn’t seem fair.
Here’s the answer in a nutshell. North Carolina isn’t a comparative negligence state. We adhere to the principle of contributory negligence to determine liability. A plaintiff, who is found to be negligent, is considered to be contributing to the harm they have suffered. A negligent plaintiff in North Carolina can’t collect anything.
I already know your next question, “How can that be? I slipped on something in the Piggly Wiggly and now I have to pay over $100,000 in medical bills for my broken hip. It doesn’t make sense.”
Simply put, the plaintiff (the injured party) would be guilty of negligence for not looking where they were going. You were looking at the cucumbers and tomatoes, instead of looking where you were walking. As the injured party, you would be barred from any recovery because you are deemed to be at fault through your own negligence. It hardly seems like justice, does it?
North Carolina is one of 4 states that still adhere to this archaic form of determining negligence. Other states use comparative negligence in determining the recovery for an injured plaintiff. Comparative negligence is a fairer form of deciding harm. In North Carolina, if you are even 1% at fault for your injuries, you recover nothing. Other states judge the plaintiff based on the percentage they contribute to their harm.
Until our General Assembly decides to change this archaic form of determining negligence, North Carolina will be one of 4 states that hurt the plaintiff and create obstacles prohibiting their recovery. Contributory negligence, it doesn’t seem fair, does it?