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Is contributory negligence absolute?

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

On this blog, we have discussed contributory negligence and its draconian consequences for negligence victims. To be clear, negligence is a broad legal term that includes car accidents, medical malpractice, etc. Indeed, our last post analyzed what it means for medical malpractice. However, the natural question that resulted from that post is whether contributory negligence is absolute in all negligence cases.

Contributory negligence?

As we discussed in our last post, in addition to Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina still have the antiquated contributory negligence rule. And, for those who have not read our prior post, contributory negligence means that if a negligence victim has any fault (even just 1%), they are completely barred from being compensated for their injuries.

Is there another way?

Yes! In all other states, the rule of negligence is comparative negligence, meaning that all parties share in the responsibility, depending on their level of fault. Depending on the state though, there are different versions, called slight-gross, pure and modified. Unfortunately, our area (Bethesda, Maryland, the Washington, D.C., metro area and Virginia) do not use any of these versions broadly.

Well, is contributory negligence absolute?

Not necessarily. Depending on where the negligence occurred and the type of negligence at issue, negligence victims may have a different negligence standard. For example, last year, the Washington, D.C., City Council passed an updated negligence code to make an exception for all “vulnerable users” in the Vulnerable User Collision Recovery Amendment Act. That negligence code defines these vulnerable users as people that are utilizing skateboards, non-motorized scooters, personal mobility devices (electric or otherwise), motor-driven cycles, all-terrain vehicles, bicycles, dirt bikes, motorized bicycles, motorcycles and other similar devices. This was an expansion of a 2016 law that made an exemption to contributory negligence for those using bicycles (manual, not motorized or electric) and pedestrians.

Essentially, the new law allows vulnerable users to collect from negligent parties, if they have less than 50% liability, and this includes accidents that happen on roadways and sidewalks. The takeaway for our Bethesda, Maryland, the Washington, D.C., metro area and Virginia, readers is that, while negligence law may not be in the victim’s favor in every incident, sometimes, the law is on the one’s side.